Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan, Wasserman Schultz Introduce Bill to Combat Human Trafficking

Aug 11, 2021
Press Release
Florida has Third-Highest Number of Human Trafficking Cases in U.S.
Educating Students Critical to Preventing Future Crimes

WASHINGTON – Florida congressional delegation co-chairs Reps. Vern Buchanan and Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced today they have introduced legislation to combat human trafficking by educating students about how to properly identify the warning signs. Children account for more than half of all trafficking victims.

“Human trafficking is a form of modern day slavery,” Buchanan said. “As schools reopen this week, we need to educate students and teachers about the horrors of human trafficking. This is critical to helping current victims and preventing future instances of trafficking, which is especially important in hotspots like Florida. I look forward to working with Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz to end this vile and monstrous crime.”

The Human Trafficking and Exploitation Prevention Training Act, H.R.4989, would create a grant program within the Office of Trafficking in Persons under the Department of Health and Human Services to provide training for students, teachers and other school personnel on the warning signs of human trafficking. These grants would be issued to nonprofit organizations that have shown expertise in creating and teaching human trafficking and exploitation prevention curricula. The bill also prioritizes funding for nonprofits serving geographic areas with the highest prevalence of human trafficking.

The bill would authorize $75 million in funding for the program over a five-year period and has been endorsed by the Selah Way Foundation based in Sarasota.

“It is time to educate our children and school systems across the nation to prevent sex trafficking and exploitation,” said Elizabeth Fisher Good, co-founder, president and CEO of the Selah Way Foundation. “The Selah Way’s S.P.E.A.K. UP Train-The-Trainer Prevention Curriculum equips and empowers entire school systems including faculty, staff and students, to do just that. This plight has silenced the voice of countless children in our own backyard and has often left educators feeling helpless to protect students. We are saying, ‘no more... not on our watch!’…We at the Selah Way Foundation applaud US Representatives Vern Buchanan and Deborah Wasserman Schultz for their leadership and relentless passion to protect our children.”

While there is little precise information and statistics on trafficking due to its covert and illegal nature, it is estimated that there are hundreds of thousands of victims currently working in exploitative conditions in the sex, beauty or hospitality industries. In 2019, Florida had the third-highest number of human trafficking cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

According to a December 2020 report by the Florida’s Department of Children and Families, the Suncoast region had the second-most human trafficking reports of any region in the state. Miami-Dade, Broward and Hillsborough Counties had the highest number of human trafficking reports received by the Florida Abuse Hotline.

Last Congress, Buchanan introduced a similar bill with the late Congressman Alcee Hastings. Both members also hosted a Florida delegation meeting focused on the growing problem of human trafficking within the state.