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Amy K.
Democrat MN

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  • Directing Senate Legal Counsel to Bring a Civil Action

    by Senator Amy Klobuchar

    Posted on 2016-03-17

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    KLOBUCHAR. Mr. President, I want to thank Senator McCain for his work. I started to work on some of these backpage issues in conjunction with Senator McCain's wife Cindy McCain, as well as with Senator Heitkamp. We took a trip to Mexico focusing on the trafficking going on across the border with that country.

    I want to thank Senators Portman and McCaskill for leadership on this really important resolution. Just last year, five St. Paul residents were charged with running a multistate sex trafficking ring. One of the alleged victims was 16. Those underage girls were being advertised on backpage, and the ads were placed in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Illinois.

    In Southwest Minnesota, an operation involving backpage resulted in charges against 48 men around the towns of New Ulm and Mankato, the town my husband grew up in. These cases prove that sex trafficking isn't just happening in some faraway place. It is happening right now in the United States of America. It is happening in our own neighborhoods. It is happening in oil patches in North Dakota. It is happening in Cleveland, and it is happening in St. Paul. These are real stories with real people.

    In 2014 I spoke to the trafficking advocacy group Polaris when they released their State-by-State rankings of efforts to fight human trafficking. They said then: The scope and scale of human trafficking within the United States presents a daunting challenge to policymakers, service providers, law enforcement, and advocates. Originally, human trafficking was thought to be more of a problem in other countries, but now it is known to be happening in our backyards. It is estimated that there are hundreds of thousands of victims of sex and labor trafficking inside our borders.

    We have learned more about human trafficking through the advocacy and dedication, as I mentioned, of our friend Cindy McCain and her work at the McCain Institute. Their 2014 report actually focuses specifically on this advertising.

    When I was a prosecutor for 8 years, yes, we had trafficking--of course, we did--and, yes, we had child pornography, but I would say we didn't see this tsunami of advertising that we see now. Why? The Internet has made it easier. We love the Internet. It has allowed us to communicate in ways, but it has expanded demand for sex trafficking victims because of the fact that it is easier to do than it used to be.

    What the McCain report shows is that the availability of potential victims of domestic minor sex trafficking exceeded researcher expectations, with no less than 38 different Web sites advertising victims who showed indications of being juvenile sex trafficking victims, with at least 4 Web sites providing customer feedback and soliciting recommendations of victims of sex trafficking.

    The McCain report went on to say: ``In Phoenix, during 10 days of ad screening, 34 ads were identified as possibly depicting minor victims with duplicate ads resulting in 81 distinct tips of domestic minor sex trafficking.'' Last year we successfully passed the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act that Senator Cornyn and I led. We are making good progress in implementing this bill. Senator Cornyn and I met recently with Attorney General Lynch. They are working hard. Ongoing work not only includes this resolution and is the focus on the advertising of illegal sex trafficking but also partnering with the private sector.

    Senator Warner and I have introduced the Stop Trafficking on Planes Act or the STOP Act, which is built on the work of the industry to train flight attendants and train people on the planes to find the victims. I note this investigation led by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations is a bipartisan attempt to address a serious issue. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting S. Res. 377. This is just one element of this fight against sex trafficking, but it is an important one because people should not be allowed to violate the Senate rules, they shouldn't be allowed to skirt hearings, and they shouldn't be allowed to get away with this kind of behavior. Backpage and others of its ilk are not just a vehicle for advertising this crime, they are actually a vehicle for expanding this crime and hurting more people.

    I appreciate the work of Senator Portman and Senator McCaskill.

    Thank you.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Ohio.

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