January 13, 2015

Sens. Wyden, Cornyn, Kirk, Klobuchar Push To Crack Down On Human Traffickers

U.S. Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) today introduced the bipartisan Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which would empower law enforcement to further crack down on human traffickers in communities across the country while bringing about greater restitution and justice for victims. In addition to law enforcement provisions, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act helps victims rebuild their lives by using fines and penalties against perpetrators to improve the availability of restitution and witness assistance funds. The legislation had strong bipartisan support in the last Congress.

“We need to do everything we can to crack down on human traffickers and bring an end to these terrible crimes, and the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act will provide law enforcement with the tools to do so, while also lending victims a helping hand,” Sen. Cornyn said. “This is a nationwide problem, and it’s great to have Republicans and Democrats join forces to address this important issue head-on.”

“Child sex trafficking is a scourge that must come to an end and I’m pleased to be part of this bipartisan and necessary legislation,” Sen. Wyden said. “This legislation will help local authorities better identify at-risk children while strengthening services that assist – and protect – children who are victims of sex trafficking. It also provides much needed funding for cash-starved programs that provide victim services.”

"This bipartisan bill gives police and prosecutors the tools they need to go after sex traffickers and those who assist them," Sen. Kirk said. "Gangs are at the heart of the human trafficking networks that victimize women and girls, and stopping them is critical to ending this modern-day slavery."

“As a former prosecutor, I know the terror and violence women and children suffer as victims of sex trafficking,” Sen. Klobuchar said. “We need to take action to crack down on these horrific crimes and the criminals who perpetrate them. This bipartisan bill will help crack down on traffickers while also helping ensure victims have the critical support they need.”

Among other provisions, the legislation would take the following steps to curb human trafficking: 

  • Create a deficit-neutral “Domestic Trafficking Victims’ Fund,” financed through fines on related crimes, which the Attorney General can use to enhance support programs for victims of human trafficking and child pornography. This fund is deficit neutral and will increase federal resources available for domestic human trafficking victim support by up to $30 million.
  • Create a new grant program to help states and local governments develop victim-centered programs to rescue victims, prosecute human traffickers, and restore the lives of victims. This grant program will be funded entirely through the “Domestic Trafficking Victims’ Fund” created by the bill. 
  • Prioritizes victim restoration and witness assistance for trafficking survivors by directing the proceeds of forfeited criminal assets to pay victim restitution orders and fund financial awards for witnesses who come forward and assist law enforcement.
  • Allow for the use of cutting-edge investigative tools in state and local human trafficking investigations. 
  • Protects victims and witnesses by requiring human traffickers to be treated as violent criminals for purposes of pre-trial release and detention pending judicial proceedings. 
  • Reduces demand for human trafficking by clarifying current law encouraging law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, and juries to target and punish the buyers and purchasers of trafficking victims the same as all other human traffickers.

 The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act is endorsed by many national victims’ rights and law enforcement organizations, including: the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Shared Hope International, Human Rights Project for Girls, National Children’s Alliance, Fraternal Order of Police, National Association of Police Organizations, National Criminal Justice Association, National District Attorney’s Association, National Conference of State Legislatures, and PROTECT.