WASHINGTON, D.C. – Polaris, a leader in the global fight to eradicate modern slavery and restore freedom to survivors, applauded members of the U.S. Senate today for passing key anti-human trafficking legislation out of the U.S. Senate Committees on the Judiciary and Foreign Relations. Polaris, which supports the legislation under consideration, urges the full Senate to take up and pass the bills.
“The U.S. Senate Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees took concrete steps to ramp up the fight against modern slavery, and we urge the full Chamber to pass this legislation. These legislative efforts increase opportunities to combat human trafficking through the criminal justice system, while simultaneously expanding access to services to help survivors rebuild their lives,” said Keeli Sorensen, Polaris’s Director of National Programs. “Polaris applauds Senators Grassley, Leahy, Cornyn, Klobuchar, Corker, Collins, Feinstein, and the numerous other champions of this legislation on Capitol Hill for leading efforts to restore freedom to survivors and prevent this crime from happening in the first place.”
Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT) held a hearing Tuesday, following a letter sent by all 20 women Senators, led by U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME). Two key bills unanimously passed out of Committee: the Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act (S.166), introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (S.178), introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX). Chairman Grassley’s prepared committee statement supporting these and other efforts can be viewed here.
“Polaris welcomes the new funding provided in Senator Cornyn’s bill, which would bolster a myriad of services for victims and survivors of human trafficking. The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act will bring increased attention and accountability to those individuals who knowingly purchase commercial sex from trafficking victims. The survivor-led U.S. Advisory Council of Human Trafficking created in the bill will also make incredible strides towards ensuring the federal government receives recommendations directly from survivors,” continued Sorensen. “Furthermore, The Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act sends a clear message to state governments that safe harbor legislation protecting child victims of human trafficking must be included in their response to this crime. Senator Klobuchar’s bill also recognizes the critically important role of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) hotline by backing it with the force of law.”
The Foreign Relations Committee passed Sen. Bob Corker’s (R-TN) bill, the End Modern Slavery Initiative Act of 2015, out of the Committee today, which would create the End Modern Slavery Initiative Foundation (EMSI). The EMSI supports a multilateral public-private fund that increases support for global anti-trafficking efforts.
“Senator Corker’s bill establishing the End Modern Slavery Initiative Foundation will help resolve one of the biggest roadblocks in the fight against human trafficking — namely, that our collective efforts are chronically underfunded,” concluded Sorensen, “It’s estimated that modern slavery reaps $150 billion in profits every year worldwide. Effectively combating this crime will require globally coordinated efforts, and the EMSI will help fund innovative programming.”
Additionally, Polaris calls on the Senate to pass the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (S.262), introduced by Ranking Member Leahy, which reauthorizes existing law that provides critical social and housing services to vulnerable homeless youth. These services are essential to both prevent vulnerability to trafficking and help youth with services when they escape a trafficking situation. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimated 1 out of 7 endangered runaways reported in 2013 were likely child sex trafficking victims.
People can receive help or report a tip of suspected human trafficking by calling the National Human Trafficking Resource Center ator by sending a text to Polaris at “BeFree” (233733). Polaris has operated the NHTRC since December 2007.