‘A Heinous Crime in Plain Sight’: Congress Takes Aim at This Modern Day Scourge

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WASHINGTON — Human trafficking will be a heavy theme in Congress this week and next. In efforts to legislate more efficient combative measures, committees are hearing advocates from across the anti-human trafficking industry.

On July 13, the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs reviewed a 2017 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report produced by the State Department.

Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan began his remarks by praising first daughter Ivanka Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for their efforts in combating human trafficking these past few months. He expressed his optimism that the “End Modern Slavery Initiative,” a $1.5 billion multination anti-human trafficking program, will prove successful.

“Victims will only find freedom if we cultivate a radically new, global and coordinated approach to defeat this vile crime,” said Sullivan, quoting U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s address to the United Nations.

Truckers against Trafficking

But measures are not only being addressed from a diplomatic position. On July 12, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation convened with advocates to discuss training for truckers. Given the range of travel and transient centers visited by truckers, it is imperative to enable them to be scouts for traffic-related activity.

Esther Goetsch, who serves as a coalition building specialist with Truckers Against Trafficking, told the committee of a story where a trucker played a huge role in a rescue mission.

“On January 16, 2014, an RV pulled into a truck stop in Virginia,” Goetsch recounted. “Police were soon called to the scene… A young woman, 20 years old, had been kidnapped two weeks prior out of Iowa. She had been beaten, raped, her whole body burned by the instruments heated on the RV stove, branded, and starved.”

“She was being sold by her traffickers, Laura Sorensen and Aldair Hodza, through sex ads on Craigslist where men were purchasing her and then arriving to the RV to rape her,” she continued. “Had the call not been made that brought law enforcement out to that truck stop, doctors said she would have died within the next few days.”

A Heinous Crime in Plain Sight

The committee chairman, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., who has authored anti-human trafficking bills before, described human trafficking as “a heinous crime that often hides in plain sight.” Thune also acknowledged that this is just as much a domestic issue as it is an international one.

These initiatives follow the lead of President Donald Trump. Trump signed an executive order to “strengthen enforcement of federal law in order to thwart transnational criminal organizations and subsidiary organizations, including criminal gangs, cartels, racketeering organizations, and other groups engaged in illicit activities that present a threat to public safety and national security.”

Congressional committees are expected to reconvene for further analysis and legal implementation.

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