Hultgren renews push for global human sex trafficking crackdown
U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren reinforced his quest to end human sex trafficking by reintroducing legislation in the new Congress that shames countries who don't make efforts to eliminate the demand for prostitution.
Hultgren first introduced the Sex Trafficking Demand Reduction Act in January 2015. The bill would amend the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. That law requires the State Department to determine if a country has made "serious and sustained efforts" to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. Hultgren's bill would deem a country a failure in such efforts if there were not real action to reduce demand.
Supporters of Hultgren's bill highlighted Spain -- where purchasing sex is legal -- as an example of such a failing country in a recent Washington Post column. A State Department report indicates there are up to 400,000 female prostitutes in Spain but organized crime forces up to 90 percent of those women into the commercial sex business.
Hultgren's bill died in the previous Congress. But new co-sponsors and a new presidential administration are giving Hultgren new reason to be optimistic about a favorable vote. New York U.S. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney signed on to give Hultgren's bill a Democratic co-sponsor for the first time. Republican U.S. Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey also signed onto the bill.
Hultgren's team views Smith as the key voice on human trafficking issues in the House. Hultgren's staff also expects Vice President-elect Mike Pence to provide a big push for the bill in the new session.
"Human trafficking is nothing less than modern-day slavery," Hultgren said in reintroducing the bill. "It targets society's most vulnerable, stealing their souls and depriving them of any hope to escape a downward spiral of despair. Nations must be held accountable for their efforts to eradicate human trafficking within their borders."
The most recent State Department report on global trafficking identifies the United States, along with Mexico and the Philippines, as the top three countries where trafficking victims originate. Children in juvenile justice systems, runaways and homeless youths, and people with disabilities are among the populations most likely to become sex trafficking victims.
In 2014, data collected by the federal government showed 120 human trafficking offenses resulting in arrests or crimes solved. But not all state and local law enforcement agencies participated in sharing data. There is no formal mechanism to track trafficking prosecutions at the state and local levels, according to the State Department report.
In comparison, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline logged about 34,000 calls in fiscal year 2015.
Though Hultgren's bill died in the last Congress, President Barack Obama did sign into law the International Megan's Law to Prevent Child Exploitation and Other Sexual Crimes Through Advanced Notification of Traveling Sex Offenders. The law empowers the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice to tell foreign countries when registered sex offenders are visiting their countries and to receive information when such offenders come to the U.S.