Sep 18 2023
The surprise Hollywood hit of the summer “Sound of Freedom” is a movie based on a true story of a former Department of Homeland Security agent’s efforts to rescue victims from a Colombian sex trafficking ring. This film has helped create public awareness of this form of modern-day slavery and reinvigorated the fight to end it.
Sadly, human trafficking is a problem that effects 24.9 million people worldwide including individuals in Arkansas. In July, the FBI located 200 victims of sex trafficking during its two-week Operation Cross Country campaign, three of whom were minors in The Natural State.
Human trafficking is a scourge that demands swift and effective action.
In February, Governor Sanders issued an executive order to combat this unconscionable crime by pursuing a comprehensive approach at the state level including standardized screening tools to identify victims.
The Arkansas State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force helps law enforcement prevent the sexual exploitation of children on the internet. The FBI’s Arkansas Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force operates in Northwest Arkansas, where there is an increased need for anti-human trafficking resources. This investment has paid dividends during a recent Department of Homeland Security human trafficking investigation. The operation worked with the FBI, Arkansas State Police and nearly every local law enforcement agency in the area to rescue five human trafficking victims and arrest five perpetrators.
Additionally, non-profits have joined the effort. Into the Light, a foundation for children recovering from human trafficking, assisted nearly 90 people at its Mountain Home location from 16 counties in our state. Initiatives such as The Centers for Youth and Families in Little Rock and Monticello, as well as Hub of HOPE in Northwest Arkansas, provide housing and resources for victims and their families to heal as well as educate the public about human trafficking.
I applaud our state’s commitment to combat human trafficking and I am working to supplement that mission in Washington. In July, I urged Senate Department of Homeland Security Committee leaders to increase oversight and investigations into human trafficking.
We’ve had bipartisan success in the past including passage of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. This law ensures victims receive the necessary care to help them recover and reconstruct their lives. Additionally, it strengthens law enforcement’s abilities to help protect victims and catch perpetrators.
While Congress has approved millions of dollars in funding for programs to combat human trafficking, we know more must be done.
This crisis has been exacerbated by the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border. In the past year the record number of illegal border crossings have overwhelmed the border patrol agents, public servants and local communities working to safely address the problem. Many of these migrants are coming from countries experiencing government failure and rampant crime. These conditions have tragically led to more people being victimized by the drug cartels and other criminal organizations that are using the border crisis to continue their nefarious practices.
President Biden must finally acknowledge there is a crisis at our border and take significant action to secure it. Until then, human trafficking, deadly fentanyl distribution and other illegal activities undermining our national security and destroying communities will continue to thrive.
By continuing to support our federal, state and local agencies I am confident we can end the abuse of vulnerable men, women and children, and protect human rights within our borders and beyond.