Weekly Columns

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wrote in the 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report that “Human trafficking is one of the most tragic human rights issues of our time.” I agree. Human trafficking, the criminal enterprise of smuggling people for forced labor and sex slavery, is a heinous crime. These atrocities are happening all across the globe including, unfortunately, the United States. Congress is making progress to combat this modern-day slavery and President Trump is raising awareness by declaring January National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

An estimated 25 million people are victims of human trafficking around the world. It’s hard to believe, but it’s also happening in Arkansas. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, 19 cases of human trafficking in Arkansas were reported through June 2017. Fortunately, our state is fighting back. Last year Arkansas legislators approved a law requiring state-licensed truckers to be trained in spotting the red flags of human trafficking. Using their position on the road, these drivers have the tools to recognize the signs of human trafficking and alert the authorities to any suspicious activity.

Congress is also increasing efforts to combat human trafficking. In September, the Senate unanimously passed two pieces of legislation to renew existing programs in support of survivors of human trafficking and help bring perpetrators of these horrific crimes to justice.

The Abolish Human Trafficking Act provides more resources to law enforcement in their effort to combat human trafficking and establishes Human Trafficking Justice Coordinators at every U.S. Attorney’s office and at the Department of Justice. In addition, the legislation helps survivors rebuild their lives by extending the Department of Justice Domestic Trafficking Victims’ Fund.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act reauthorizes key programs to help survivors in their recovery as well as offering specialized training on human trafficking to judges and federal investigators on human trafficking. 

We have made progress, but more needs to be done. That’s why I’m a cosponsor of the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act. This legislation would eliminate federal liability protections for websites that assist, support or facilitate online sex trafficking and allow prosecution of these offenders. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation unanimously approved the bill late last year. I looking forward to supporting it when it comes before the full Senate. 

This fiscal year, the Senate Appropriations Committee included at least $90 million in federal funding to combat human trafficking. As a member of the committee, I will continue to support funding for these important programs and look forward to the Senate completing work on fiscal year 2018 funding bills. 

We can be proud of the United States’ leadership in combatting human trafficking worldwide. This fight requires attention from the international community. That’s why last Congress we passed the End Modern Slavery Initiative Act to partner with governments and private organizations to assist in ending trafficking. This helped establish the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery. The U.S. and the United Kingdom have contributed $25 million to the fund which will be used to formulate a global strategy to eliminate this crime.

I’m pleased to see all levels of government lending their support to help fight this crime. Together we can end this attack on human rights in our state, our country and around the world.