||(Washington, D.C.) Today, Representatives Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL) introduced the bipartisan Human Trafficking and Exploitation Prevention Training Act of 2019, legislation which would help prevent the human trafficking and exploitation of children by providing grants for training students, teachers, and school personnel to understand, recognize, prevent, and respond to signs of human trafficking. Joining Hastings and Buchanan as original cosponsors are Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Greg Steube (R-FL) (Please find a copy of the bill attached):
“In truth, human trafficking and exploitation is a local, not just a global problem,” said Hastings. “These horrors are happening in cities, suburbs, and rural areas across our nation, and right in my home state of Florida, which has one of the highest reported cases of trafficking in the country. While human trafficking spans all demographics, as Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Homelessness and a member of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, I am painfully aware that children from high-risk backgrounds are more vulnerable to victimization, exploitation, and human trafficking.
“While awareness about human trafficking and exploitation has increased, prevention efforts are lacking. It is critical that we introduce trafficking and exploitation prevention training into our highest-need school communities,” continued Hastings. “To protect our children, it is imperative that we educate students, teachers, and school personnel to recognize the dangers of trafficking and exploitation, not just to protect children from traffickers, but also to prevent potential traffickers and abusers from exploiting others in the future. I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this crucially important measure.”
“Human trafficking is a vile and monstrous crime against women and children,” said Buchanan. “Educating students and teachers about the warning signs is critical to combatting human trafficking. This is especially important in hot spots for human trafficking like Florida. I look forward to working with Congressman Hastings and organizations like the Selah Way Foundation to end this horrific practice.”
“This bill is a necessary component of a comprehensive approach to addressing the scourge of human trafficking and providing support to survivors,” said Wasserman Schultz. “Culturally competent, gender-responsive initiatives are among the most important ways we can support survivors and people at-risk. Schools are one of the best front-line institutions to reach young people who are at-risk of human trafficking, and provide substantive, responsive services. The recent case of Jeffrey Epstein’s lenient plea deal is just one example of how trafficking survivors can fall between the cracks of supports and services while abusers receive protection and absolution. The better that we educate adults, including school officials, about the risks and warning signs of human trafficking, the better we can protect and support young people who are at risk of being victims of this horrendous crime.”
“Human trafficking is an epidemic and we must do what we can to protect our nation’s most vulnerable,” said Steube. “I’m honored to cosponsor this legislation to provide grants for training students, teachers, and school personnel to understand, recognize, prevent, and respond to signs of human trafficking.”
This legislation has been endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), ECPAT-USA, the Selah Way Foundation, Selah Freedom, and the 3Strands Global Foundation.
“Human trafficking is a cruel and insidious crime of the worst kind. It lures our most vulnerable, often young children and teens, under the false promise of a better life when it provides anything but. Instead, as we saw in the case of Jeffrey Epstein's accusers, they are subjected to physical and sexual abuse. As the head of a union that works daily to create a better life for our members and the students, patients, families and communities we serve, I find it abhorrent that perpetrators would use this ideal to prey on unsuspecting human beings. We are grateful to Rep. Hastings for this bill, which expands training programs to increase awareness and detection of human trafficking and to enable more-effective responses. We also hope this legislation sends a signal to the thousands of victims that a community of many is committed to coming to their aid,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
“ECPAT-ESA, the nation’s leader in preventing child exploitation and trafficking, applauds Congressman Hastings for his determination to eliminate this scourge from our schools. If enacted, Congressman Hasting's legislation will provide the necessary funding and structure to educate students and teachers about the warning signs of being trafficked or exploited. We commend Congressman Hasting's and his talented staff for leading on this very difficult subject and we stand-by in support of this important bill,” said Joe Huang-Racalto, Director of Government Relations and Public Policy of ECPAT-USA.
“We applaud Congressman Hastings and the legislative team championing this bill. The Selah Way Foundation and Selah Freedom are honored to partner in helping to empower our own children and to educate their caregivers. America's vulnerable children and juveniles are being groomed younger and younger as a result of the detrimental effects of media and other factors of a dark society. Desensitized and exploited, they need to develop a powerful voice to cease the dark secrets of sexual abuse that are epidemic in every zip code in America,” said Elizabeth Fisher, Co-Founder, President, and CEO of the Selah Way Foundation.
“As leaders in the fight to end modern-day slavery, we understand the reality of this crime. Human trafficking is a rapidly growing 150-billion dollar criminal enterprise that hides in plain sight. We know that students, especially those with risk-factors, are some of the most vulnerable to victimization and exploitation. We need to protect our youth and we know that prevention education has the power and potential to stop the crime before it starts. The Human Trafficking and Exploitation Prevention Training Act of 2019 fully supports our belief that Prevention Changes Everything and is taking us one step closer to creating a world free from human trafficking,” said Ashlie Bryant, the Co-Founder, President, and CEO of 3Strands Global Foundation.
The bipartisan Human Trafficking and Exploitation Prevention Training Act of 2019 authorizes the Director of the Office of Trafficking in Persons in the Administration of Children and Families (ACF) to establish a demonstration project to issue grants to non-profit organizations and schools to develop and implement age-appropriate, culturally competent, and gender-responsive curriculum for training students, teachers, and school personnel to understand, recognize, prevent, and respond to signs of human trafficking. The bill instructs the Director to give priority to eligible entities serving geographic areas with the highest prevalence of human trafficking and areas with the highest prevalence of at-risk, vulnerable, or underserved populations including homeless youth, foster youth, youth involved in the child welfare system and runaways. In addition, the bill sets forth data collection and strict privacy-protected reporting requirements for the program.
Congressman Alcee L. Hastings serves as Vice-Chairman of the House Rules Committee, Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and Co-Chairman of the Florida Delegation.