Senator Coons helps found Congressional Caucus to End Human Trafficking
Between his work leading the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs and on the Senate Judiciary Committee, human trafficking is an issue that crosses Senator Coons’ radar too often.
More human beings are being used as slaves right now than ever before, but what few people realize is just how pervasive an issue it is here in the United States.
The numbers of Americans who become victims of trafficking is staggering. Among the thousands of cases opened by the U.S. Department of Justice between 2008 and 2010, 83 percent of trafficking cases here in the United States were U.S. citizens. Additionally, according to the U.S. Department of State between 14,500 and 17,500 human beings are trafficked into the United States annually.
That’s why Senator Coons teamed up with Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) to launch the bipartisan Senate Caucus to End Human Trafficking on Wednesday. The Caucus will provide a forum for senators to come together to combat human trafficking by promoting awareness, removing demand, supporting prosecution efforts, and providing appropriate service systems for survivors. The caucus was announced at a press conference on Capitol Hill with two survivors of childhood commercial sexual exploitation and actress Jada Pinkett Smith, the founder of Don’t Sell Bodies.
“Slavery is an abomination and must be eradicated from this earth,” Senator Coons said. “The United States has been a global leader in the fight against slavery and human trafficking, and the fight continues today in Congress. The Bipartisan Caucus to End Human Tracking will help educate members of the Senate and provide a forum to build support for legislation to strengthen existing laws against sexual exploitation and trafficking. I’m proud to be a part of it.”
A key function of the caucus will be to educate staff members on substantive issues and raise awareness by hosting hearing-like events with experts from service groups, government agencies of jurisdiction, and child welfare entities. The caucus will initially focus on incidents of domestic commercial sexual exploitation of children and expand to include trafficking of both children and adults, domestically and abroad.
“I stand before you today free from slavery,” said trafficking survivor Withelma “T” Ortiz at Wednesday’s press conference. “We are here not to celebrate my success, but to fight for those who are currently being beaten, tortured and held captive. It’s important that we work across various sectors of the federal government to put an end to human trafficking.”
Human trafficking is defined by the U.S. State Department as the recruitment, transportation, harboring, or receiving of a person through threat, coercion, abduction, or deception and subjecting that person to involuntary servitude, such as forced sexual exploitation or debt bondage. According to reports from the U.S. State Department, human trafficking occurs in every state in the nation. Additionally, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited children, 100 to 200 thousand of the sex workers across the United States are trafficked children.
Senator Coons has been an outspoken advocate to combat human trafficking. He is a cosponsor of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which provides tools to combat trafficking in persons both worldwide and domestically. The legislation was first passed in 2000 and was reauthorized in 2003 and 2008, but expired in 2011. The bill was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in October would exted its provisions until 2015 and currently waits a vote by the full Senate.