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Dianne F.
Democrat CA

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  • Supporting the Goals and Ideals of Observing the National Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Month

    by Senator Dianne Feinstein

    Posted on 2015-01-30

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    FEINSTEIN. Madam President, today I have submitted a resolution with Senator Kirk recognizing January as National Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Month. We are pleased to be joined by Senators Leahy, Toomey, Klobuchar, Coons, Rubio, Murray, Wyden, Brown, Shaheen, Gillibrand, Kaine, Heitkamp, King, and Markey in sponsoring this resolution.

    January 1 is the anniversary of the effective date of the Emancipation Proclamation, and February 1 is the anniversary of the date that President Abraham Lincoln signed the joint resolution sending the Thirteenth Amendment--which abolished slavery--to the States for ratification.

    In 2009, the Senate unanimously approved a resolution I introduced to establish January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month. That resolution was made to raise awareness of, and opposition to, the human trafficking. It is important that we continue to bring attention to and raise awareness of this horrific practice.

    Human trafficking is a crime in which persons are forced to work against their will in sweatshops, prostitution rings, farms, private homes, and other enterprises. The traffickers use force, threats of force, and coercion to ensure that their victims believe they have no other choice but to work for their captors. Frequently, human trafficking goes undetected because the victims are not only afraid of their traffickers, but they have been taught by their traffickers to fear law enforcement.

    Human trafficking is estimated to be a $32 billion criminal enterprise, making it the second largest criminal industry in the world, behind the drug trade. A 2014 Urban Institute study found that pimps in Atlanta can make nearly $33,000 in just one week, which amounts to over $1.7 million a year. The overwhelming majority of sex trafficking victims in the United States are American citizens--83 percent by one estimate from the Department of Justice.

    Unfortunately, children are often victims of this horrendous crime. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has reported that one in seven endangered runaways are victims of sex trafficking.

    Many of these children continue to be exploited into adulthood. A study of women and girls involved in street prostitution in my hometown of San Francisco found that 82 percent had been physically assaulted, 83 percent were threatened with a weapon, and 68 percent were raped.

    Unfortunately, such abuse is common around the world. According to the United Nations, there are nearly 21 million people currently serving in some form of involuntary servitude. The United Nations also reported that in 16 percent of the 138 countries studied, there was not one trafficking-related conviction between 2007 and 2010.

    Over the past decade, Congress has taken action to enhance the tools available to prosecute perpetrators of human trafficking and to assist and protect trafficking victims. We passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and, 8 years later, passed the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. These laws strengthened Federal efforts to combat international and domestic human trafficking by expanding administrative subpoena authority, increasing penalties for traffickers, and authorizing the Justice Department to seek preventive detention of those charged with trafficking offenses.

    Despite these important laws, further action is needed. Earlier this year, Senator Portman and I introduced the Combat Human Trafficking Act of 2015. This bill would reduce the demand for human trafficking, particularly the commercial sexual exploitation of children, by holding buyers accountable and making it easier for law enforcement to investigate and prosecute all persons who participate in sex trafficking.

    In addition, I am pleased to join Senator Kirk in introducing the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation Act or the SAVE Act. This bill would strike at child sex trafficking where it is increasingly occurring--the Internet--by prohibiting Internet companies from profiting from allowing their websites to be used to traffic children.

    We must act with urgency to end the practice of human trafficking. For every day we wait, more lives are damaged by this horrible practice.

    I urge my colleagues to join me in observing National Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Month to draw attention to human trafficking and to renew our collective efforts to eliminate this practice in the United States and around the world.

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