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Congressman Tom Emmer

Representing the 6th District of Minnesota

Emmer: Human trafficking is a global crisis

January 27, 2015
Blog Post

Last night I joined my colleagues on the House Floor to discuss the global crisis of human trafficking. 

Nearly a year ago, Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria kidnapped more than 200 teenage girls with the intent of selling them off into slavery. This crime against humanity sparked international outrage, but a distracted world soon turned their attention, and their backs, on these young women. 

Unfortunately, this was not an isolated tragedy in some faraway nation.

We are in the midst of a global crisis.

On every continent and in every nation, millions of human beings are sold and enslaved, forced into labor and prostitution against their will.

In the United States alone, hundreds of thousands are trafficked in by transnational drug cartels and criminal organizations. The Justice Department estimates there are more than 200,000 children across the U.S. “at risk” of trafficking.

Human trafficking is a nearly 30 billion dollar per year enterprise, with thousands of innocent children trafficked annually.

This is not just an American problem, but there is work we can do at home to combat this growing problem.

Congress must do everything within its power and authority to ensure that resources and judicial tools are being used to improve prosecutions, protect victims and prevent future trafficking.

Thankfully, we are not starting with nothing.

One way we can combat trafficking is through safe harbor laws that have been instituted across the country, including my home state of Minnesota. I’d like to thank my colleague Senator Amy Klobuchar for her leadership on protecting victims and assisting prosecutors by forwarding Safe Harbor laws at the national level. Her leadership, with the support of countless others including especially my colleagues John Kline and Erik Paulsen, comes from an ongoing effort from everyday Minnesotans looking to make an impact and rescue young men and women trapped in the sex trade.

There is also an existing network of organizations that provide services to victims of trafficking that are both life-altering and life-saving. 

In my district three such organizations stand out. Breaking Free and Heartland Girls’ Ranch help women escape sexual exploitation through housing, mental health support, and education. The Link, in Carver County, provides support programs to youth and families to combat homelessness and works with at-risk children to help them reach their full potential.

Organizations like these are vital in the fight against trafficking. They make a real difference, and their efforts should be celebrated.  

Congress will take important votes today to streamline agency processes and responses, improve the effectiveness of grant awards, and expand the scope of outreach and child protection initiatives.

To our collective shame, the tragedy of human trafficking persists. The words spoken tonight, and the votes cast in this chamber tomorrow cannot merely be symbolic gestures. They must be followed by action and constant vigilance.

Our children deserve nothing less.