Buchanan Urges Action to End Human Trafficking
Sarasota Rescue Worker: “Our Region is a Hotbed of Human Trafficking”
WASHINGTON — Congressman Vern Buchanan said today legislation aimed at cracking down on human trafficking – a form of modern-day slavery – will help protect women and children victimized by this “monstrous” crime.
The Put Trafficking Victims First Act was approved by the U.S. House Tuesday with Buchanan’s strong support and now goes to the Senate.
“This is a vile and monstrous crime against women and children,” Buchanan said. “Those responsible must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Elizabeth Fisher, the founder and head of a national rescue group based in Sarasota, said, “Our region is a hotbed of human trafficking.”
Fisher noted that her non-profit organization, called Selah Freedom, is seeing the number of young women being rescued and receiving services triple annually. “We’re making progress in turning the tide and appreciate Congressman Buchanan’s attention to this too-often overlooked issue.”
Reported cases of human trafficking jumped 36 percent nationally last year, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Children account for more than half the cases of human trafficking, a crime in which the victim is abducted or recruited for sexual exploitation.
The Suncoast region reports the second-most human trafficking reports of any region in Florida, according to a December 2016 report by the state’s Department of Children and Families. The number of cases reported statewide jumped 54 percent last year.
Human trafficking also can involve illegal organ harvesting and forced labor.
The bill approved by the House would provide federal grants to train prosecutors and law enforcement on how to best protect victims and investigate, prosecute and prevent human trafficking. It also would provide assistance for trauma care and mental health services to victims.
Florida ranks third in the United States in number of human trafficking cases, behind California and Texas, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.
The legislation would also improve data collection to stop future trafficking. Because human trafficking happens in the shadows, the bill requires the National Institute of Justice to develop new methods focused on the prevalence of the crime, and to evaluate the effectiveness of current policies.
The Put Trafficking Victims First Act also encourages states to develop a 24-hour emergency response plan to provide victims with immediate protection and support.