In the recent sudden upswing in social media interest around child trafficking, there seemed to be an insinuation that child trafficking is an issue everyone should be concerned about and an issue that should transcend political party affiliation.
Good news!! It is.
From the beginning, Congressmen and women on both sides of the aisle have been committed to fighting trafficking and doing so in a bipartisan manner. Let’s take a look.
Action Senators Have Taken
Generally speaking, when senators have introduced legislation to address trafficking, both Republican and Democratic senators will co-sponsor the legislation.
Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA) 2000
Sam Brownback (R – Kansas) and Paul Wellstone (D – Minnesota) first introduced the bill that would become the TVPA 2000, the seminal piece of legislation that authorized and equipped the federal government with resources to protect victims and prosecute their traffickers. It has been subsequently reauthorized several times.
U.S. Senate Caucus to End Human Trafficking
In 2012, Rob Portman (R – Ohio) and Richard Blumenthal (D – Conn.) co-founded the U.S. Senate Caucus to End Human Trafficking, which facilitates multijursidictional efforts to promote policies that raise awareness of trafficking, remove demand, support prosecution efforts and ensure services and support are available to survivors of trafficking.
Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act
This act in the Senate (and FOSTA, its counterpart in the House of Representatives) became a law to ensure justice for victims of sex trafficking and ensure that websites such as Backpage.com, which knowingly facilitate sex trafficking, can be held liable and brought to justice. The legislation was the result of a two-year Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI) inquiry, led by Senators Portman (R – OH) and McCaskill (D- MO).
The bill’s sponsors include a long list of Senators:
U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), John McCain (R-AZ), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), John Cornyn (R-TX), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Bob Casey (D-PA) Susan Collins (R-ME), Bob Corker (R-TN), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), James Lankford (R-OK), Mike Lee (R-UT), Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Marco Rubio (R-FL)
In a similar vein, this year, Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) “sent a letter to Attorney General Bill Barr, calling on the Justice Department to conduct an investigation into Pornhub and its owner MindGeek for streaming videos of women and girls who have been raped and exploited. Sasse wrote to Barr in his capacity as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight.”
Trafficking Survivors Relief Act
Rob Portman (R-OH) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced bipartisan legislation, the Trafficking Survivors Relief Act, which would help human trafficking victims by clearing any federal convictions for nonviolent crimes from criminal records. This is currently in committee.
The McCain Institute
Beyond legislative efforts, John & Cindy McCain started the McCain Institute and its Combatting Human Trafficking Program which supports a wide variety of anti-trafficking initiatives. This institute is remarkable in that it demonstrates their personal commitment to this issue.
It’s Not the Story of One Person, One Party, or even One Branch of Government
This list is only a small peek into legislative efforts to combat trafficking, and of course, it’s only the Senate side. The House of Representatives also has representatives who’ve taken action to combat this issue, and likewise, it has been done in a bipartisan manner. Congressional representatives not only introduce legislation, they’ve also made special efforts to learn about it, including sending a delegation of Congressional staff to Thailand to speak with local NGOs, in their capacity to learn about what things look like on the ground. Even more broadly speaking, efforts also extend from the federal level to state and local governments, and across to international efforts as well.
The media tend to highlight division and discord, but we don’t have to buy into that narrative. Thankfully, fighting human trafficking is an issue that both sides care about and are working together to try to solve.