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Sheila J.
Democrat TX 18

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  • Human Trafficking Detection Act of 2015

    by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee

    Posted on 2015-01-27

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    JACKSON LEE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.



    Mr. Speaker, I indicated this afternoon was an important afternoon. I thank the gentleman for his legislation and his leadership, and I add my appreciation of the ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee, Mr. Thompson, and, as well, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, who previously did four bills, Mr. Conyers. It seems that we are having bipartisan support on a very important crisis in our Nation and around the world.

    In 2014, President Obama said: At home, we are leading by example. My administration is cracking down on traffickers, charging a record number of perpetrators. We are deploying new technology in the fight against human trafficking, developing the Federal Government's first-ever strategic action plan to strengthen victim services and strengthening protections against human trafficking in Federal contracts. During the past year, the White House has hosted events on combating human trafficking, bringing together leaders from every sector of society. Together, we came up with new ideas to fight trafficking at the national and grassroots levels.

    The present legislation before us, as I rise to strongly support it, H.R. 460, is the Human Trafficking Detection Act of 2015. This is a great partnership between Homeland Security, the committee which I am a senior member on, and Judiciary to fight against human trafficking. In particular, this bill has a very important purpose because our Homeland Security personnel are in our airports and ports, they are along our borders, they are the eyes and ears, they are the first responders. It is crucial that this bill is effectively working with personnel to train, to deter, detect, disrupt, and prevent human trafficking during the course of their primary roles and responsibilities and for other work.

    This is a very good idea. Human trafficking is not only a crime but also a horrible violation of human rights. Human trafficking is often a hidden crime. Victims of human trafficking may be afraid to come forward and get help because they may be forced or coerced. They may fear retribution or they might not have control over their documents.

    According to the most recent estimate from the Department of State, approximately 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across global borders each year.

    According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Houston, Texas, is one of the Nation's largest hubs in human trafficking. There are over 200 active brothels in Houston and more strip clubs and illicit spas than Las Vegas. These businesses serve as fronts for sex trafficking.

    Let me be very clear. This is not a condemnation of my city. This is a recognition that every single elected person; local, county, and State government; and our law enforcement are working every day and we are being successful, in essence, in shutting down strip clubs, illicit spas, and others.

    The main factors that contribute to high levels of trafficking throughout the Nation and in Texas are proximity, demographics, and a large migrant labor population. Houston's proximity to the Mexican border, I-10, a highway running cross-country through Houston, and the port make it a popular point. But that is not solely the site of human trafficking. As my colleague has mentioned, it is everywhere. It is a national problem. Therefore, our Homeland Security personnel, thank goodness, will now have the opportunity to have special training so that in the capacity of their work, their eyes and ears will be extra trained to detect those trying to move past the law.

    Houston's huge geographic size and large ethnic and culturally diverse population is seen in and around the Nation, which creates optimal conditions. It is not the only city with that.

    To combat human trafficking, the Department of Homeland Security, recognizing there needs to be a national campaign, launched the Blue Campaign in 2010. Through the Blue Campaign, DHS works in collaboration with law enforcement, government, nongovernment, and private organizations to protect the basic right of freedom and to bring those who exploit human lives to justice.

    This legislation will begin to institutionalize the training. Last year, this training--the Blue training--was credited when two men were arrested at Miami International Airport. TSA personnel who had received training to detect trafficking observed the interaction between the young men and young woman and noticed the signs.

    What we want to do today, again, is to institutionalize and codify this effort so that no human trafficker, no child being held by an adult but being trafficked can escape the eye of our trained Homeland Security personnel, and they can break that hand away from that adult that is trying to do that child harm because they will know that is not the friendly parent or wonderful grandparent or best aunt or uncle. They will know it is a dastardly act.

    I support the underlying bill, ask my colleagues to support it.

    Mr. Speaker, Human trafficking is not only a crime, but also a horrible violation of human rights.

    Human trafficking is often a hidden crime.

    Victims of human trafficking may be afraid to come forward and get help because they may be forced or coerced, they may fear retribution, or they might not have control over their documents.

    According to the most recent estimate from the Department of State, approximately 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across global borders each year.

    According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Houston, Texas is one of the nation's largest hubs for human trafficking.

    There are over 200 active brothels in Houston and more strip clubs and illicit spas than Las Vegas; these businesses serve as fronts for sex trafficking.

    The main factors that contribute to high levels of trafficking through Houston and the rest of Texas are proximity, demographics, and a large migrant labor force.

    Houston's proximity to the Mexican border, I-10, a highway running across country through Houston, and the port of Houston make it a popular point of entry for international trafficking.

    Additionally, the presence of two large airports provides ways in and out of the city.

    Houston's huge geographic size and large ethnic and culturally diverse population create optimal conditions for trafficking because of the ability to blend in with the community.

    To combat human trafficking, the Department of Homeland Security launched the ``Blue Campaign'' in 2010.

    Through the ``Blue Campaign,'' DHS works in collaboration with law enforcement, government, non-government and private organizations to protect the basic right of freedom and to bring those who exploit human lives to justice.

    In part, DHS does so by increasing awareness and training for its front line employees such as Transportation Security Officers, Customs and Border Protection Officers, and others.

    Last year, this training was credited when two men were arrested at Miami International Airport.

    TSA personnel, who received training to detect trafficking, observed the interaction between the men and a young woman and noticed the signs.

    The bill before us today seeks to codify in law the training of DHS personnel on how to [[Page H609]] deter, detect, and disrupt human trafficking and, where appropriate, interdict a suspected trafficker during the course of their primary roles and responsibilities.

    For CBP, this means Officers at our ports of entry will be trained on how to identify potential victims of trafficking.

    For TSA, it means that screening personnel, who screen approximately 1.8 million passengers a day, will be knowledgeable about signs of trafficking.

    Importantly, the bill requires that the training received be appropriate for a particular location or environment in which the personnel receiving the training perform their official duties.

    This will help tailor the training received so that it is relevant to the specific personnel receiving the training.

    Mr. Speaker, with this bill, we have the opportunity to call attention to the human rights crisis that is human trafficking.

    January is ``National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.'' To ensure that continued attention be paid to this often hidden crime, I urge passage of H.R. 460.

    Though the bill before us today will not eliminate human trafficking, it may help prevent it by ensuring that DHS' frontline workforce is properly trained to fight it.

    President's Interagency Task Force Progress in Combating Trafficking in Persons: The U.S. Government Response to Modern Slavery Trafficking in persons, or human trafficking, is the act of recruiting, enticing, harboring, transporting, providing, obtaining, or maintaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. Sex trafficking of a minor under the age of 18 does not require the use of force, threats of force, fraud, or coercion. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 (Pub. L. 106-386), as amended, describes this compelled service using a number of different terms, including involuntary servitude, slavery, debt bondage, and forced labor.

    Human trafficking can include, but does not require, movement. Under the TVPA, people may be considered trafficking victims regardless of whether they were transported to the exploitative situation, previously consented to work for a trafficker, or participated in a crime as a direct result of being trafficked. At the heart of this phenomenon are the traffickers' aim to exploit and enslave their victims and the myriad of coercive and deceptive practices they use.

    Human trafficking is an opportunistic crime. Traffickers target all types of people: adults and children, women, men, and transgender individuals, citizens and noncitizens alike. No socioeconomic group is immune; new immigrants, Native Americans, runaways, the homeless, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth are particularly vulnerable. One of the most common assumptions about ``average'' trafficking victims is that they are vulnerable simply because they come from the poorest, most isolated communities, whether overseas or in the United States. Indeed, many do. Yet some victims, from a variety of backgrounds, have reported that their suffering began with their aspirations for a better life and a lack of options to fulfill them.

    That's where the traffickers come in. Exploiting these realities, traffickers appear to offer a solution--a good job, a brighter future, a safe home, or a sense of belonging, even love. They prey on their victims' hope and exploit their trust and confidence, coercing them into using themselves as collateral for that chance.

    In the United States, the President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (PITF) and its operational arm, the Senior Policy Operating Group (SPOG), bring together federal departments and agencies to ensure a whole-of-government approach that addresses all aspects of human trafficking--enforcement of criminal and labor law, development of victim identification and protection measures, support for innovations in data gathering and research, education and public awareness, enhanced partnerships and research opportunities, and strategically linked foreign assistance and diplomatic engagement. The agencies of the PITF are the Departments of State (DOS), Defense (DOD), Justice (DOJ), the Interior (DOI), Agriculture (USDA), Labor (DOL), Health and Human Services (HHS), Transportation (DOT), Education (ED), and Homeland Security (DHS), as well as the Domestic Policy Council (DPC), the National Security Council (NSC), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). As part of the PITF, these agencies convene routinely to coordinate both federal policies to combat trafficking in persons and implementation of the TVPA.

    Agencies of the PITF have brought together leaders from government, the private sector, advocates and survivors, faith leaders, law enforcement and academia, and have made significant progress following President Obama's March 2012 call to strengthen federal efforts to combat human trafficking, his September 2012 speech announcing a number of new and strengthened initiatives, and the first-ever White House Forum to Combat Human Trafficking in April 2013, where the first recipients of the Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons-- survivor advocate Florrie Burke and hospitality and travel company Carlson--were honored.

    The pages that follow reflect the work these agencies have accomplished over the past year, as well as their commitment to continue their efforts in the year to come. From strengthening the SPOG and its four Committees to implementing the nation's first-ever Services for Trafficking Victims in the United States, to implementing an Executive Order that strengthens protections against human trafficking in government contracting, PITF agencies are enabling law enforcement and service providers to deploy resources more effectively and raising public awareness both at home and abroad.

    Federal agencies also worked to expand partnerships with civil society and the private sector in order to bring more resources to bear in fighting this horrific injustice. Although the primary responsibility, for fighting this crime and protecting its survivors lies with governments, governments alone cannot solve this problem. Everyone has a role--from local law enforcement and first responders to the heads of major corporations and everyday citizens. Effective anti-trafficking strategies require partnerships that integrate the experiences and guidance of survivors and reach industries, local communities, schools, religious congregations, and multilateral partners. The U.S. government, for example, funds the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC), a national hotline (1-888-373-7888) operated by a nongovernmental organization that provides emergency assistance every day of the year, as well as anti- trafficking task forces in which law enforcement and victim service providers combine efforts to respond to this crime in their communities. Significant partnerships and support for non-governmental efforts have also taken root, including the Partnership for Freedom, where Humanity United and DOJ, HHS, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) launched the first of three challenge award contests, Reimagine: Opportunity, to develop innovative solutions to address human trafficking; twelve finalists will compete to expand access to housing, social services, and economic empowerment for trafficking victims. In addition, DOS has teamed up with Veritee, an NGO leader in supply chain management, to implement a project in consultation with federal agencies and other stakeholders to help gather data on the risks of trafficking in the production of goods and provision of services. Working with partners the Aspen Institute and Made in a Free World, Veritee will also convene stakeholders and develop a tool for federal contractors and businesses to analyze supply chain risks and adopt ethical sourcing guidelines and compliance plans that align with Executive Order 13627. Finally, partnering with survivors of human trafficking, federal anti-trafficking experts from DOJ, with partners from DHS, DOS, HHS, and the White House, hosted a day-long Survivor Forum and Listening Session to gain insight from a diverse group of survivors in developing more effective programs and strategies.

    The Task Force has drawn strength and direction from these partnerships, which have brought procurement officers and CEOs, professors and human resources professional together with law enforcement and victim advocates in the service of freedom. Such effective collaboration has led to concrete results in the United States' efforts to advance government priorities and combat modern slavery both domestically and globally. This compilation of the Obama Administration's accomplishments represents merely a snapshot, as of February 2014, of the work made possible by the multifaceted approach the United States has adopted to combat trafficking in persons. Each day, the Obama Administration strives to improve its strategy and to enhance its partnerships in order to fulfill not only the mandates of the TVPA, but also the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

    Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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