Yesterday, S. 1311, the Abolish Human Trafficking Act of 2017, was introduced in the Senate by original co-sponsors Cornyn, Klobuchar, Grassley, Feinstein, Corker, Brown, Heller, Wyden, Rubio, Coons and Hatch.
Today, Senators Grassley, Feinstein, Cornyn, Klobuchar, Corker and Rubio introduced the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2017.
Freedom Network USA supports both of these bills as a necessary step forward in ensuring the US applies a human rights-based approach to addressing human trafficking inside our own borders.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 established the US as a world leader in the fight against human trafficking, using the 3 P’s: prosecution, protection, and prevention. This comprehensive approach strives to ensure that survivors are identified and supported, traffickers are punished, and root causes are addressed to reduce vulnerabilities for both individuals and communities.
The TVPA included authorizations for critical funding for law enforcement investigations, social and legal services for survivors, prosecution, and training. These authorizations must be extended every four years to ensure that the programs continue without interruption.
These bills not only authorize continued funding for critical services and programs, but also add important direction to federal agencies to expand training to increase victim identification. Data from human trafficking task forces across the US show that service providers identify far more trafficking survivors than their law enforcement partners, and most trafficking crimes go unprosecuted. More training is needed to ensure that law enforcement agents are able to properly investigate human trafficking, in all forms of labor.
Importantly, the Act directs the federal government, and recipients of federal funds, to implement a victim-centered approach in services, investigations, and prosecutions. Victim-centered programs and investigations are designed with the needs and experiences of survivors in mind, allow survivors to make choices and determine their future, and offer non-judgmental services and options. Survivors are empowered to regain control of their lives, are able to meet the needs of themselves and their families, and are not forced to relive their traumatic experiences for multiple interviews.
Additionally, the bills include new requirements for law enforcement to screen for victimization in populations likely to be victims of trafficking, and directs them to avoid arresting and prosecuting victims for crimes they were forced to commit as a result of the trafficking. Human trafficking is, by definition, a crime in which the victims are forced to commit acts by another. Often traffickers force their victims to commit criminal acts in furtherance of the trafficking scheme. Victims should not be arrested and forgiven only if they engage in services or assist the prosecution. Victims are victims. They must be respected and supported by law enforcement, service providers, and prosecutors alike. Only then will survivors be free to make their own choices and move on from their victimization.
FNUSA calls on Congress to swiftly pass S. 1311 the Abolish Human Trafficking Act of 2017 and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2017. The US must protect funding and promote best practices in services, investigation, and prosecution. We have made great progress in the 17 years since the passage of the original TVPA, but we can’t stop now.