WASHINGTON, D.C. – Two bipartisan bills authored by U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Rob Portman (R-OH) that would enhance our nation’s ability to combat the rise of human trafficking were approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, where Peters serves as Chair and Portman serves as Ranking Member. The bills would make permanent the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Center for Countering Human Trafficking (CCHT) and increase coordination between DHS 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, as well as the public, need to be better equipped to recognize and deter human trafficking, and stop these serious and underreported crimes,” said Senator Peters. “As human trafficking continues to threaten communities in Michigan and across our nation, these bipartisan bills will help ensure we have a coordinated and comprehensive approach to fighting back against human trafficking organizations – while protecting victims and survivors.”
“Human trafficking should not be happening in Ohio or our nation. I applaud the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for passing our bipartisan Countering Human Trafficking Act and DHS Blue Campaign Enhancement Act because these bills advance a whole of government approach to give law enforcement increased resources 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 well-paying 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.
The Countering Human Trafficking Act will make permanent the CHHT, 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 CHHT 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.
The DHS Blue Campaign Enhancement Act 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 effectively. The bill also establishes a Blue Campaign Advisory Board in 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 bill is a Senate companion to legislation introduced by U.S. Representatives Peter Meijer (R-MI) and Lou Correa (D-CA).