U S House Judiciary Committee Approves Anti Human Trafficking Legislation

U.S. House Judiciary Committee Approves Human Trafficking Legislation

Jennifer Arguinzoni 6/4/2014

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a package of anti-human trafficking legislation on May 21. NCSL supported two of these bills. The bills are now before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration in late June.  NCSL has been working with sponsors of these bills in both chambers for six months and it is encouraging to see them moving through the committee process. NCSL is the first national state organization to adopt a formal policy position on the issue of human trafficking, which encourages improved coordination among federal agencies as well as improved federal outreach, consultation, coordination and assistance to states and territories with regard to strengthening trafficking enforcement and assistance to trafficking victims.

HR 3530 sponsored by Representative Ted Poe (R-Texas) will permit the attorney general to make grants to states or local governments. These grants can be used for a variety of activities to combat human trafficking and assist victims of trafficking. The grants can be used to establish, improve or expand comprehensive domestic child human trafficking deterrence programs that help law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judicial officials and qualified victims’ services organizations address human trafficking. The bill also raises the cap in the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) to permit state flexibility to use the funds toward the establishment or enhancement of specialized law enforcement training, task force units, problem-solving court programs or victims’ services programs. See summary here.

HR 3610 sponsored by Representative Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) provides incentives to localities on their Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), if the locality is within a state that treats a minor who has engaged in or attempted to engage in a commercial sex act as a victim of human trafficking. It also discourages the charging or prosecution of such person with prostitution or a sex trafficking offense, or encourages the diversion of such person to appropriate service providers. This legislation also establishes a nationsl huamn trafficking hotline beginning in FY 2017 through grants made by the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  See summary here.

S 1738 sponsored by Senator John Cornyn is the companion bill to HR 3530 (as originally introduced). It contains a different funding mechanism to support state efforts in combating human trafficking.  This bill provides for a special assessment that will fine convicted felons of trafficking and pornography-related offenses a $5,000 penalty which will be placed in a fund and distributed directly to states to assist with victims’ services and law enforcement efforts. There is also a trafficking victim certification provision that is intended to streamline the process for receipt of victims’ services. This bill also contains racketeering provisions that permit prosecutors to prosecute an entire human trafficking ring in a single trial so that victims only have to testify once.  S 1738 also contains expanded asset forfeiture language that parallels federal money laundering law. This provision permits forfeiture of any asset involved in, not just used in, a trafficking offense. See summary here.

S 1733 sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar is the companion bill to HR 3610 (as originally introduced) contains an additional provision providing for the establishment of a national strategy to combat human trafficking. Under the provision the Attorney General will coordinate efforts to develop this strategy. See summary here.

On March 28 NCSL sent a letter to Representative Ted Poe (R-Texas) in support of HR 3530. On March 12 NCSL sent a letter to Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas).

For more information, please contact Susan Frederick or Jennifer Arguinzoni at 202-624-5400.

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