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Christopher S.
Republican NJ 4

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  • Human Trafficking Prevention Act

    by Representative Christopher H. Smith

    Posted on 2015-01-26

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    SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 357, the Human Trafficking Prevention Act by the gentleman from New York, Sean Patrick Maloney.



    Mr. Speaker, human trafficking is a global scourge. Time and time again, there are missed opportunities to identify and assist victims of human trafficking. This may be due to a lack of training to recognize signs of trafficking, or perhaps a hesitancy to intrude into the ``privacy'' of others.

    There are numerous points of contact with the victims of trafficking, however, and at each point there are people who can intervene if they know how to identify victims of trafficking.

    Traffickers often move their victims to avoid detection. Whether by plane, train or bus, they come into contact with flight attendants and the like, as well as border officials.

    In July of 2010, I chaired a conference in Washington, D.C., to bring together the relevant U.S. agencies, such as the Customs [[Page H548]] and Border Patrol, various U.S. airlines, and non-governmental organizations to focus on interdicting traffickers by training commercial transportation employees to recognize the indicators for trafficking. Speakers, including Deborah Sigmund, founder of a non- government organization called Innocents at Risk, explained how flight attendants were the ``first line of defense'' in the fight against human trafficking.

    Flight attendants are in the unique position to observe a potential trafficking in progress and then call a trafficking hotline or inform the pilot to radio ahead so that the proper authorities can intervene.

    Former flight attendant Nancy Rivard, President of Airline Ambassadors International, told us how she and other flight attendants compared notes one day and were shocked and dismayed at how often they had noticed what they suspected was a trafficked woman or child on their flight, but had no training or protocol to do something about it. Nancy has been doing a great deal about it ever since, training airline employees around the United States and world.

    Just last year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a similar training initiative, the Blue Lightning program, to domestic U.S. airlines--including Delta, JetBlue, Allegiant, and North American Airlines. With minimal modifications, the training is also easily adaptable to bus drivers and station operators, train conductors, trucking associations, and other transportation industry professionals.

    In December 2013, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, which comprises 57 countries from Europe and North America, endorsed my plan to make anti-trafficking training for airline employees, other public and commercial carriers, as well as hotel employees, a primary goal in the international strategy to combat human trafficking. In an earlier session, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCEPA) adopted my resolution to implement such training in each member country.

    But what about our State Department personnel working overseas? Are they properly trained to be able to recognize the signs of this heinous crime and violation of fundamental human rights? Current law does require that State Department personnel be trained to identify trafficking victims, and there are many fine foreign service officers tasked with addressing trafficking issues.

    But, it does not prescribe any minimum training requirements. H.R. 357, the Human Trafficking Prevention Act, would mandate several minimum training requirements on this issue within the Department of State.

    These would include a training course for Department personnel who deal with trafficking issues, in addition to trafficking briefings for all Ambassadors and Deputy Chiefs of Mission before they depart for their posts. The legislation also requires that annual reminders be sent to appropriate personnel on key trafficking issues related to their countries of focus.

    By specifying the minimum requirements for such training, this bill strengthens the existing law. And notably, it does so at no additional cost to taxpayers.

    I want to thank Mr. Maloney for authoring this measure, and adding to the body of legislation developed by the House to address this critical issue.

    The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the gentleman from California (Mr. Royce) that the House suspend the rules and pass the bill, H.R. 357.

    The question was taken; and (two-thirds being in the affirmative) the rules were suspended and the bill was passed.

    A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.

    ____________________

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