Lawmakers Praise Financial Industry’s Human Trafficking Barriers

Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) recently praised the financial industry’s efforts to thwart the work of human traffickers.

The lawmakers are supporting the Senate Banking Committee’s inclusion of a provision in the BRINK Act that would combat human trafficking. The language is based on the End Banking for Human Traffickers Act, which was originally introduced by Warren and Rubio earlier this year.

The legislators said the language requires federal banking regulators to work with law enforcement and financial institutions to address the use of the financial system for human trafficking while establishing an office within the Office for Terrorism and Financial Crimes to coordinate with the Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

 

To read the full story by Douglas Clark on Financial Regulation News: Click Here

How The New Anti-Trafficking Bill Will Help To Curb The Human Trafficking Epidemic

Anti-trafficking advocates have lauded the measure that recently passed the House of Representatives. Here’s why.

The House of Representatives recently approved a new anti-trafficking bill (H.R. 2200) which allocates over $500 million over the next four years for domestic and international programs to support victims and persons vulnerable to human trafficking. This is an encouraging step to enhance efforts by the U.S. government in preventing human trafficking, protecting trafficking victims, and prosecuting traffickers. Named for the famed American abolitionist, the “Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act” reauthorizes funding for programs within the Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Labor, and State, and the U.S Agency for International Development, highlighting the importance of tackling this growing problem through multiple channels.

The fact that H.R. 2200 passed with no recorded opposition is a testament to the fact that human trafficking is being increasingly recognized by both political parties as a serious national and international problem. Anti-trafficking advocates have lauded this bill, and several other anti-trafficking bills passed by the House this year, as strong statements that the U.S. is committed to the fight to end modern slavery. These efforts also reveal the complexities of combating human trafficking, with the bill advocating for a more comprehensive response — one that approaches the problem from several levels.

INCREASED RESOURCES FOR VICTIMS

This bill places more emphasis on the prevention of trafficking compared to the 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which was reauthorized by Congress four times by overwhelming majorities in 2003, 2005, 2008, and 2013. Not only will H.R. 2200 bolster the identification of trafficking victims through more educational programs, but it will provide funding to increase programs that provide victims with more assistance, such as trauma-informed care or long-term housing options.

Community-based organizations that provide services for victims are notoriously overtaxed and often struggle to meet the needs of all groups that seek services. As a result, crucial resources such as shelters and psychological counseling are scarce. This bill will help organizations to better meet victims’ needs.

ENHANCED PREVENTATIVE MEASURES FOR CHILD TRAFFICKING

H.R. 2200 brings attention to the importance of preventing future exploitation. One important area of focus is the prevention of child sex trafficking in the United States. Through more age-appropriate information in human trafficking to students, school teachers, and staff, we can raise awareness of the tactics used by traffickers to manipulate and exploit victims. School officials are well-positioned to help recognize warning signs of children who are most vulnerable to trafficking and to prevent them from being exploited. With increased awareness regarding the signs of trafficking, school officials can also be called upon to report potential trafficking cases to authorities.

To read the full story by Mellissa Withers of University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine on Reuters: Click Here

Racine Dominicans Continue To Fight Human Trafficking

RACINE COUNTY — Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a series of bills in support of efforts to combat human trafficking.
But anti-trafficking efforts have been active for years in Racine County, and much of its history starts with Racine’s very own Dominican sisters.
“The Racine Dominicans were instrumental in shining a spotlight on human trafficking early on in Racine when many of us, including myself, were not even aware of the issue,” said Karri Hemmig, founder and executive director of Fight to End Exploitation.

Sixteen years in the making

In 2001, 1 million Catholic sisters from around the world gathered in Rome and vowed to address “insistently, and at every level, the abuse and sexual exploitation of women and children, with particular attention to human trafficking.”
The Dominicans took the declaration to heart, helping to spur human trafficking efforts in Racine County.
“This (human trafficking) kept coming up like a bad penny,” said Sister Ruth Schaaf, who was working as a parish nurse and had an office at St. Luke’s Hospital at the time. She also chaired the Racine Dominicans’ society focus group.
“Somebody said, ‘How do we know we haven’t seen a victim?’” Schaaf said. “That was an eye opener because we began to say, ‘Yeah, what would be some red flags?’”

Seeking knowledge

The sisters read a “Look Beneath the Surface” pamphlet issued by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Rescue & Restore Victims of Human Trafficking campaign, which informed them of the red flags to look for in potential trafficking victims.

To read the full story by Alyssa Mauk on The Journal Times: Click Here

House Democrats Seek Answers After Ice Agents Arrest Possible Victim Of Human Trafficking

“It is simply unconscionable that ICE would target such a marginalized population,” said Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY). (SHAWN INGLIMA/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

U.S. House Democrats are looking for answers after Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents showed up at a Queens courthouse to arrest a woman believed to be a victim of human trafficking last month.The ICE agents made three arrests outside the Queens Criminal Courthouse and had also planned to cuff a woman from China who was being tried for sex work in a human trafficking court. At the time, she was protected by lawyers from Legal Aid who asked the judge hold her on bail to allow her to leave the courthouse.

ICE’s appearance at the courthouse drew immediate criticism from Democrats and immigration activists. But ICE’s actual policy for seeking out and arresting victims of human trafficking remains unclear. There is also no public information about the number of people served by ICE’s Victims Assistance Program, which is meant to support victims of human trafficking.

In a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and ICE’s acting director Thomas Homan, New York City’s 12 Democratic U.S. representatives demanded clarification on ICE’s policies for stalking human trafficking courts and asked for VAP data.

To read the full story by Aaron Holmes of New York Daily News: Click Here

 

Heitkamp Bipartisan Bill to Abolish Human Trafficking Unanimously Passes Senate Committee

Legislation Would Enhance Sentences for Certain Trafficking Offenses, Establish Trafficking Coordinators in each U.S. Attorney’s Office, Increase Restitution Options for Victims, and Strengthen Victim Protections, Services, and Training

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) today announced that a bipartisan, comprehensive bill she helped introduce to strengthen tools to combat human trafficking, protect victims of these crimes, and help them rebuild their lives unanimously passed in the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary – the final step before reaching the floor of the U.S. Senate.

Building on her work to activate a community-wide response to eradicate human trafficking, Heitkamp’s Abolishing Human Trafficking Act, which she introduced with a strong bipartisan group of 12 other Republican and Democratic senators, would provide stronger assistance to victims of human trafficking, increase resources to law enforcement and victims services organizations, and implement stricter punishments for perpetrators of these crimes. The bill seeks to enhance and expand on the successes of 2015’s landmark Justice for Victims of Human Trafficking Act. Heitkamp helped pave the bipartisan, compromise path forward that led to the successful passage of the legislation which is now law.

“Eradicating human trafficking from towns across North Dakota and the country requires an enhanced, comprehensive approach that cracks down on traffickers and child sexual exploitation,” said Heitkamp. “Too often, victims of insidious crimes like human trafficking cannot fight back themselves, and their plight is not recognized as the modern-day slavery that it is. We took great strides in working to change that in 2015 when we passed bipartisan, landmark anti-trafficking legislation to bring all hands on deck. Today, our bipartisan bill that builds on its momentum took an important step forward. It is now imperative for the Senate  to pass this bill to strengthen law enforcement with expanded tools to bring criminals to justice, help victims get the protection and recovery resources to regain their lives, and to activate the community-wide response we need to abolish human trafficking.”

Just last week, Heitkamp’s bipartisan Stop, Observe, Ask and Respond (SOAR) to Health and Wellness Act to provide health care workers across the country needed training on how to recognize, report, and potentially intervene when they see patients who are possible human trafficking victims was unanimously passed in a subcommittee within the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce. According to a 2014 study surveying victims of human trafficking, 88 percent of respondents reported having had contact with a healthcare provider while being trafficked. Heitkamp’s SOAR Act would expand on an U.S. Department of Health and Human Services pilot program in New Town and Williston that helped train 57 health care workers to recognize victims of human trafficking and help them get the resources they need.

For the full press release on Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s website: Click Here

We Can’t Stop Now: Fight For Human Rights And Renew Trafficking Protection Law

Human trafficking is a gross violation of human rights. Traffickers victimize immigrants and U.S. citizens across every race, gender, religion and culture. Men, women and children of all ages are exploited. And many of these violations occur right here in the United States.

With the proposed reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), we have an opportunity to set a new standard that strengthens critical programs and protections for survivors.

Originally introduced in 2000, the TVPA established the U.S. as a world leader in the fight against human trafficking through emphasis on what we call the “3 Ps” — prosecution, protection and prevention. This approach introduced measures to ensure survivors are identified and supported, traffickers are punished and that root causes are addressed to reduce vulnerabilities for both victims and communities.

The law defines human trafficking, provides funding and programs for survivors, establishes criminal sentences for traffickers and outlines the responsibilities of the federal government. It also authorizes funding for law enforcement investigations, social and legal services for survivors, prosecution and training.

To date, the TVPA has been reauthorized four times — each with revised parameters to further strengthen prevention strategies, increase victim protections and expand investigative measures to address human trafficking.

But despite this progress, we have seen setbacks. For example, the number of labor prosecutions in the U.S. has steadily declined from 60 percent of trafficking cases in 2010 to 27 percent in 2014. Victims are often arrested for the crimes they are forced to commit. More is needed to hold traffickers accountable and to protect victims and survivors. 

With TVPA reauthorization once again on the horizon, we are at a key turning point, and we must move the needle. 

The legislation proposes multiple new measures. It adds important direction to federal agencies to broaden training efforts that will expand recognition of human trafficking by law enforcement and support a victim-centered response. Current law enforcement techniques — such as interviewing victims at the scene, requiring multiple interviews, and refusing referrals to services without victims’ cooperation — often lead to victim re-traumatization and refusal to cooperate with further investigations.

The legislation focuses on a victim-centered approach that addresses these issues, and includes new requirements for law enforcement to screen for victimization in populations likely to be victims of trafficking.

In addition, it directs law enforcement to avoid arresting and prosecuting victims for crimes they were forced to commit. Local and state law enforcement continue to arrest labor trafficking victims who are forced to commit crimes such as transporting drugs and panhandling, as well as sex workers on ‘prostitution’ grounds, including minors who are eligible for victim services under federal law.

These legislative improvements are worthy of support. But our work must go further to prevent these heinous crimes. Namely, we must address the underlying issues that make people vulnerable to trafficking — poverty, violence, discrimination, weak worker protections, insufficient child welfare protections and lack of affordable housing.

To read the full story by Jean Bruggeman on The Hill: Click Here

Bishop Lauds Bill To Fight Human Trafficking

Washington D.C., Jul 13, 2017 / 04:40 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An upgrade to a key anti-trafficking bill passed the U.S. House on Wednesday, and has been praised by one U.S. bishop as “an important step” in the fight to abolish modern-day slavery.

Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chair of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee, called H.R. 2200 “an important step Congress can take to help prevent human trafficking and protect victims as it provides important service provisions that will aid victims.”

The Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention, Protection and Reauthorization Act of 2017 makes upgrades to existing legislation, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. The new bill is named after Frederick Douglass, who was born a slave in 1818 but escaped to freedom and who spent his time thereafter fighting to abolish the institution of slavery in the U.S.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), chair of the House global human rights subcommittee, is the author of the act, with Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), ranking member on the committee, being the bill’s lead sponsor.

The proposed legislation would increase funding for existing anti-trafficking programs in the U.S. and abroad by over $500 million.

Grants will be given to educational programs for students and teachers on how to detect and avoid the trafficking of young people for work or sex. Also, the U.S. government is encouraged under the bill to have employees stay at hotels that have taken concrete steps to prevent trafficking on their property.

To read the full story by Matt Hadro of Catholic News Agency: Click Here

Feinstein: ‘Human Trafficking Is Totally Bad. It’s Totally Illegal. It Ruins People’s Lives’

Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Thursday applauded the collaboration between Fresno law enforcement and community groups in combating human trafficking.

“Today was a really unique meeting, because Fresno seems to have a very unique program,” Feinstein said after the Thursday gathering. “Here, there’s a community-police connection.”

Stopping human trafficking has been a concern of the senator’s for some time, and she said the opportunity to hear from law enforcement officials and community leaders at the meeting in Fresno will be helpful in crafting legislation to address the problem.

“Human trafficking has been relayed to me to be the second largest criminal industry in the United States, Feinstein said. “And young girls are trafficked all throughout America and throughout California. And pimps make a lot of money, and young girls have their lives ruined.”

California has the most cases of reported human trafficking in the U.S., and Fresno has the seventh-highest number of those cases, according to the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission’s Central Valley Against Human Trafficking Project. Bakersfield is ranked eighth.

And human trafficking is increasing, in part because of awareness in the community to report it, but also because of gang-related trafficking, the commission said.

Feinstein said 49 percent of girls who are traffficked are between ages 15 and 19, but 10 percent are 11 years old. Those involved in human trafficking should be vigorously prosecuted, she said.

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims, who participated in the roundtable at Fresno police headquarters, said victims are often promised love and money, but “before they know it, what they’re promised is violence and death.”

To read the full story by Barbara Anderson on The Fresno Bee: Click Here

‘Frederick Douglass’ Bill Introduced in Congress to Curb Human Trafficking

Members of Congress have introduced a bipartisan bill named for American abolitionist Frederick Douglass that would seek to curb human trafficking.

The new legislation, titled the “Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Act of 2017,” is co-sponsored by New Jersey Republican Rep. Chris Smith and California Democrat Rep. Karen Bass.

Seven other sponsors have put their support behind the bill, which would reauthorize $130 million in funding to stop human trafficking and provide aid to victims.

“It is an honor to commemorate Frederick Douglass with this legislation, highlighting his unending dedication to the prevention and eradication of slavery,” Smith said in a statement.

Ken Morris, the great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass and co-founder of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiative — co-founded in 2007 by descendants of Douglass and Booker T. Washington with the intention of ending modern day slavery — told NBC News this bill has come about at the perfect time.

“Douglass’ bicentennial is in 2018 and as our current president said on February 1, Frederick Douglass has done amazing things,” Morris said. “And whether that’s past tense or present tense we agree because the spirit of Frederick Douglass is with us today, and we are so honored this act is named for him.”

To read the full story by Kalhan Rosenblatt and Chandelis R. Duster on NBC NEWS: Click Here

Caught In Modern-Day Slavery, She Thought She’d Die. Could This Idea Help Others?