Continuing the fight against human trafficking

Every year, as many of us meet with friends and family to watch the Super Bowl, there is a completely different and horrific meeting taking place. Human traffickers use this widely attended event to exploit adults and children alike — some as young as 13 — to be forced into modern-day slavery. During the 2014 Super Bowl, more than 45 individuals were arrested for human trafficking and law enforcement officers rescued 16 child victims.  

By the same token, roughly 10,000 children are brought into the United States to be sex trafficked every year. This is despicable, and we must do everything we can to stop women, men and children from being forced into the sex trade. This is another reason why President Donald Trump is right on why we must secure our border.  

Border security is absolutely necessary to stop the flow of drugs and human traffickers from coming into our country. Did you know that in 2018, the brave men and women of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested 1,588 human traffickers and saved hundreds of children from human trafficking and sexual assault? Of the 1,588 traffickers, 1,543 were arrested for sex trafficking. I’m glad these criminals were apprehended, but we must — and we can — do more to stop these despicable crimes. The countless victims we haven’t saved are counting on us. 

In the United States alone, human trafficking is a $10 billion a year criminal industry. I’ve made it a priority to meet with local law enforcement officials, faith leaders and nonprofit groups who are fighting the scourge of human trafficking here in our community. Last year, Congressman Ted Budd (N.C.-13) and I held a roundtable in Salisbury with these experts on how we can be more effective at ending this horrific industry in our backyard. I’m grateful for the local organizations who are working hard on the front lines to confront this issue.  

Recently, President Trump signed into law the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) (H.R. 1865), a bill which I helped get across the finish line. While human trafficking can happen through kidnapping, there are other ways children and the most vulnerable in our society are exploited and trafficked. Many times, it can start with deceit, abuse, manipulation and recruitment of victims through the internet — that’s why this legislation is so important. It allows prosecutors to criminally charge operators of websites that allow human trafficking content and ensures they are shut down for good.  

Because of our efforts, Craigslist — one of the largest platforms for trafficking — immediately removed trafficking content. The website Backpage, probably the largest purveyor of trafficking content on the web, shut down completely. Since the law took effect in April of last year, we have seen more than a 70 percent decrease in online sex trafficking advertisements. I’m glad we can finally tear down this facade and show these people for what they are — monsters who profit from modern-day slavery. 

In addition, earlier this month President Trump signed into law S.1862, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. This legislation reauthorizes numerous key programs to combat trafficking and save victims both at home and abroad. It strengthens the United States global stance in the fight against human trafficking by requiring other countries to produce concrete action on their efforts. The signing of this bill shows the rest of the world that America will remain a leader in this fight. 

At the end of the day, there is simply no room in our society for those who seek to profit from human trafficking. I never want a parent to go through that pain. I never want an innocent child to go through that nightmare. And I never want a person to have their rights and their freedom stolen from them.