09.07.16

Op-ed: How The Senate Is Working To Address Human Trafficking At Home and Abroad

In recent years, North Carolina has experienced a devastating wave of crime in the form of human trafficking. Just this past year, an eastern North Carolina man was convicted of transporting multiple women across state lines to force them into prostitution, after coercing them with threats of violence.

This case is not an isolated incident. Sadly, North Carolina is among the top 10 states for reported cases of human trafficking, with 656 reported cases since 2007. Experts have cited our prominent interstate highways and our location along the East Coast as the primary reasons for why North Carolina has found itself trapped in the midst of these illicit networks.

This horrific form of modern-day slavery will not be tolerated, and I’ve been dedicated to joining my efforts with those of North Carolina’s law enforcement officers, nonprofits, international NGOs, attorneys, advocates, and dedicated citizens to end this scourge. Families should not have to worry about whether their loved ones could fall prey to human traffickers.

The National Human Trafficking Resources Center (NHTRC) defines human trafficking as “a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to control victims for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or labor services against his/her will.” Today, human trafficking is one of the preeminent human rights issues of our time, with victims spanning all ethnicities, genders, ages and income-levels in the United States.

During this Congress, I have supported legislation like the Justice for Victims of Human Trafficking Act of 2015. This law will curb sex trafficking crimes and help North Carolina’s trafficking survivors recover by strengthening federal laws combatting trafficking, strengthening the tools available for law enforcement to stop traffickers, and creating a fund financed by fines from traffickers to support victim recovery programs.

We have made great strides this Congress towards making sure that survivors of human trafficking get the justice and aid that they deserve. Unfortunately, human trafficking is a crime that is hurting people – especially women and girls – not just in North Carolina, but all over the world.

To combat trafficking globally, I joined Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to introduce the Child Protection Compact Act, which allows the United States to establish “Child Protection Compacts” with countries that have significant levels of child trafficking. These compacts will help foreign governments develop national strategies to combat and prevent child sex trafficking and forced labor.

The Child Protection Compact Act was supported by organizations such as World Vision and International Justice Mission and was signed into law as part of the Violence Against Women Act of 2013.

We also need to be sure our programs that support these anti-trafficking efforts are fully funded. That’s why I have annually joined with a bipartisan group of Senators to advocate for funding for the programs aimed at ending human trafficking and helping victims both internationally and here at home.

Edmund Burke famously declared that “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” In the case of human trafficking, there are many good women and men actively working to eradicate this heinous crime and help victims, and I will continue to work tirelessly with them to pass measures that will bring justice to victims and stop this evil at home and abroad.

This op-ed was published by the Independent Journal Review.