Buchanan Votes to Combat Human Trafficking
Women, Children Exploited by Vile Crime
WASHINGTON — Congressman Vern Buchanan today praised House passage of legislation to fight human trafficking – a vile crime against women and children that is a growing problem in the Suncoast region and across Florida.
Buchanan shined a spotlight on the issue two weeks ago when he chaired a congressional hearing on the need for action.
The Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act was approved by the U.S. House Wednesday with Buchanan’s strong support.
“Human trafficking victims suffer unspeakable acts of violence and exploitation,” Buchanan said. “The bill passed by the House will help curb this monstrous crime in my home state and across the country. I’m hopeful the Senate will move swiftly to get this to the president’s desk.”
The bill would invest $130 million in efforts to prevent human trafficking and provide assistance to victims, most of whom are children abducted or recruited for sexual exploitation.
The legislation extends federal grants to educate children about avoiding traffickers, incentivizes hotels to train staff to recognize potential victims, and requires airlines to train pilots and flight attendants to identify trafficking. The bill also encourages more accurate reporting and for survivors to work with the government to better prevent trafficking.
Florida ranks third in the nation behind California and Texas in the number of reported trafficking cases and experienced a 54 percent increase last year.
More than 80 percent of all human trafficking cases involve sex trafficking, according to data from the Department of Justice. It can also involve illegal organ harvesting and forced labor.
During the hearing chaired by Buchanan, the Florida delegation heard from several experts on the subject, including Elizabeth Fisher, the founder and head of Selah Freedom, a national anti-sex trafficking nonprofit based in Sarasota.
Ms. Fisher briefed the members on her group’s efforts to help more than 2,000 young women in the Suncoast region.
Buchanan is a strong supporter of bipartisan legislation to crack down on trafficking and is a co-sponsor of the Abolish Human Trafficking Act, which increases penalties for perpetrators and gives law enforcement more tools to treat human trafficking like organized crime.
The House also recently passed the Put Trafficking Victims First Act, a bill that provides 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. The proposal is currently awaiting action in the Senate.