- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A bill to help victims of human trafficking and boost law enforcement against this “modern-day slavery” passed the House Tuesday.

It now goes to President Obama for his signature.

The widely supported Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act should have passed earlier this year, but it was hung up in the Senate over a new funding stream for health care and other services for victims.

Some senators wanted trafficking victims to have access to abortion services, while others wanted to maintain the decades-old federal prohibition on tax-payer funding of abortion, except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the mother’s life.

As part of the Senate debate over abortion funding, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, held up the confirmation vote for now-Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

A compromise was worked out that preserved the Hyde amendment prohibition on taxpayer dollars paying for abortions, and the bill passed the Senate April 22 by a 99-0 vote. Ms. Lynch was confirmed the next day.

The House passed the anti-trafficking bill, 420-3, on Tuesday.

The massive bill included many pieces of legislation that had been passed by the House or proposed in the Senate.

House Speaker John Boehner, Ohio Republican, praised it as “a big step” toward stopping “the monsters who commit these crimes.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, said Tuesday that the bill — which would begin to meet housing needs of homeless victims, and offer training to people who work with at-risk, runaway and homeless youth — “can help survivors heal and protect others from becoming victims of such a terrible crime.”

The bill targets illegal trafficking for purposes of adult sexual abuse, child sexual abuse, peonage, and smuggling of human beings. Producers of child pornography would be deemed traffickers engaged in illicit sexual conduct.

At a recent House hearing on child sex trafficking, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes said there are around 20 million to 30 million “modern-day slaves,” 80 percent of whom are used in the sex trade. About 2 million children are trafficked for sex, Mr. Reyes said.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (S.178) would:

⦁ Create a fine of $5,000 for people who buy, sell or otherwise assist in the trafficking of men, women and children.

⦁ Use the fines to fund a new Domestic Trafficking Victim’s Fund, which will be spent by the Department of Justice on programs to support and assist victims.

⦁ Speed up the process for citizens and permanent residents who are victims of trafficking to receive federal benefits, including cash and food.

⦁ Require the Justice Department to accelerate training of law enforcement officers and prosecutors who work on trafficking cases.

⦁ Create an annual Justice Department report on how states are enforcing sex-trafficking laws.

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