WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate has passed bipartisan legislation authored by U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Rob Portman (R-OH), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, that would enhance our nation’s ability to combat the rise of human trafficking. The bill, which would make permanent and strengthen the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Center for Countering Human Trafficking (CCHT), now moves to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration.
“The horrific crime of human trafficking continues to cause tremendous harm to communities and families in Michigan and across the nation. That is why the work of the Center for Countering Human Trafficking, which disrupts human trafficking organizations, is so critical,” said Senator Peters. “This bipartisan bill will provide this critical DHS component with additional tools, resources and authorities to ensure our nation can a protect victims and survivors of human trafficking with a coordinated and comprehensive approach. I’ll continue working with my colleagues in the House to ensure this critical legislation is quickly signed into law.”
“Human trafficking should not be happening in Ohio or our nation. I applaud the Senate for passing our bipartisan Countering Human Trafficking Act because this bill gives the Department of Homeland Security the tools and resources needed to combat human trafficking and hold traffickers accountable for their actions,” said Senator Portman. “As founder and co-chair of the Senate Caucus to End Human Trafficking, I have led efforts in the Senate to combat human trafficking and I will continue to work to ensure that no more women or children become victims of this terrible crime.”
Millions of men, women, and children are trafficked worldwide – including thousands in the United States. According to DHS, traffickers might use violence, manipulation, or false promises of jobs that pay well or romantic relationships to lure victims into trafficking situations. Based on calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, the Polaris Project found that in 2019 there were at least 14,597 sex trafficking victims and survivors in the United States. However, the actual number of these crimes is likely much larger because these crimes often go unreported. In addition, the Michigan Human Trafficking Commission says that an extremely high number of human trafficking cases involve the sexual exploitation of a child. Eradicating these heinous crimes will require stronger anti-trafficking policies and ensuring that law enforcement professionals and the public are able to recognize indicators of human trafficking.
The Countering Human Trafficking Act will make permanent the CCHT, which oversees DHS’s efforts to combat human trafficking and the importation of products that are made with forced labor. The Center also ensures the Department is leveraging and coordinating its capabilities and resources to fight back against traffickers. The bill would allow the CCHT to build out their permanent staff with Special Agents, criminal analysts, and others. It will also allow the Center to modernize their systems and operations to support worldwide investigations on human trafficking and forced labor in supply chains, and bolster efforts to protect human trafficking victims. Finally, the legislation will also expand and improve national public awareness and law enforcement training initiatives to boost efforts to counter trafficking.
Peters and Portman’s legislation to increase coordination between Department of Homeland Security components and the Blue Campaign, a national public awareness effort designed to educate law enforcement and the public to recognize human trafficking, was signed into law as a part of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act.