WASHINGTON, D.C. – A provision 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 has been signed into law as a part of the National Defense Authorization Act. The provision, which is based off of Peters and Portman’s DHS Blue Campaign Enhancement Act, would 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.
“Federal and local law enforcement must have the training and resources to stop human trafficking – especially as these horrific crimes continue to go underreported in Michigan and across the nation,” said Senator Peters. “I was proud to help enact these reforms that will help address the threat of human trafficking. They will also provide law enforcement across the nation with additional means to disrupt and dismantle human trafficking organizations.”
“Human trafficking should not be happening in Ohio or our nation. I’m pleased our bipartisan DHS Blue Campaign Enhancement Act is now law because this bill will help to raise public awareness about the indicators of human trafficking and ensure law enforcement can respond quickly and effectively while holding 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.”
Thousands of men, women and children continued to be trafficked in the United States – including in Michigan. According to DHS, traffickers might use violence, manipulation, or false promises of jobs 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 may be 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.
Peters and Portman’s provision to the annual defense bill requires the Director of the Blue Campaign to develop online, interactive training videos and other web-based training opportunities for federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement officers. These trainings will help to raise public awareness about the indicators of human trafficking and ensure law enforcement can respond quickly and effectivity. The provision also establishes a Blue Campaign Advisory Board within DHS, which will consult with the Director the Blue Campaign on the development of effective awareness tools for distribution to partners that will help them identify and prevent instances of human trafficking. The provision was led in the House by U.S. Representatives Peter Meijer (R-MI) and Lou Correa (D-CA).
Peters and Portman’s bipartisan legislation to make permanent the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Center for Countering Human Trafficking (CCHT), which oversees DHS’s efforts to combat human trafficking and the importation of products that are made with forced labor, has also advanced in the Senate.