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July 31, 2017

Human trafficking bills move through Judiciary Committees

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved two bipartisan bills by voice vote June 29 that are aimed at combating human trafficking.

S. 1312, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2017 – sponsored by committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) – includes provisions to improve training for school personnel, enhance the justice system response to human trafficking, and establish an Office of Victims Assistance.

S. 1311, the Abolish Human Trafficking Act of 2017, was introduced by Cornyn and Klobuchar and would reauthorize the Domestic Trafficking Victims’ Fund under the Department of Justice. The bill also would institute mandatory restitution for victims, holistic training for federal law enforcement officers, a victim-centered approach to human trafficking, and an end to government partnerships with the commercial sex industry.

Introducing S. 1312, Grassley explained: “Victims of human trafficking are too often hidden in plain sight, in need of help, because we don’t know how to identify them or address their needs. This bill takes the urgently needed steps to support victims in their pursuit of justice and their search for normal lives.”

Klobuchar emphasized that S. 1312 “will help us take important steps towards finding victims and getting them the critical support they need.”

“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, and one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time. We have a solemn responsibility to support victims of human trafficking as they recover and to help law enforcement bring justice to the criminals who exploit them,” Cornyn said in a press release.

In related action June 28, the House Judiciary Committee approved H.R. 2480, the Empowering Law Enforcement to Fight Sex Trafficking Demand Act of 2017, sponsored by Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.). The bill, approved by voice vote, would ensure that state and local governments can obtain and use federal law enforcement grants under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program to fund efforts to combat human trafficking, including programs to reduce demand for commercial sex. In addition, on May 23 the House passed H.R. 2473, the Put Trafficking Victims First Act of 2017, a bill sponsored by Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) to direct the attorney general to study issues relating to human trafficking, including safe harbor laws and barriers hampering data collection, and to provide training for prosecutions of traffickers and support for state services for trafficking victims.

The ABA House of Delegates has adopted numerous policies targeting human trafficking, including a 2011 policy urging state, local, tribal and territorial legislatures to aid minors who are victims of human trafficking. Another policy, adopted in 2013, supports enactment of laws and regulations and development of policies that set standards for treatment of individuals who have been identified as adult or minor victims of human trafficking. 


Back to the July 2017 Washington Letter