H.R. 181, Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015

H.R. 181

Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015

Sponsor
Rep. Ted Poe

Committee
Judiciary

Date
January 27, 2015 (114th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Tuesday, January 27, 2015, the House will consider H.R. 181, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015, under suspension of the rules.  H.R. 181 was introduced on January 7, 2015 by Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) and referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary, which ordered the bill reported by voice vote.

Bill Summary

H.R. 181 amends Section 203 of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005 (42 U.S.C. 14044b) to authorize the Attorney General to make grants to eligible entities to develop, improve, or expand comprehensive domestic child human trafficking deterrence programs to rescue and restore the lives of trafficking victims, while investigating and prosecuting offenses involving child trafficking.  Grants awarded may be used for the establishment or enhancement of: 1) specialized training programs aimed at identifying and protecting trafficking victims, while investigating and prosecuting offenders; 2) dedicated anti-child human trafficking law enforcement units; 3) problem solving court programs for child human trafficking victims; and 4) victims’ services programs for victims of child human trafficking.  This grant program amends the existing grant program codified in the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005, and has the same authorization of $5 million annually over five years.

This legislation amends two programs under the Victims of Child Abuse Act of 1990 that provide funding to support regional and local Child Advocacy Centers (CACs).  These programs provide training and technical assistance to improve the criminal prosecution of child abuse.  H.R. 181 clarifies that CACs may provide assistance to victims of child pornography and minor sex trafficking.

Additionally, this legislation clarifies that a prosecuting attorney of a state or subdivision may obtain a wiretap warrant upon showing that the investigation may provide evidence of human trafficking and other types of child exploitation.  The bill also permits federal wiretap warrants for federal slavery crimes.  Moreover, it requires law enforcement organizations, when filing missing children reports with the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC), to submit a recent photograph of the child.  It also requires the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to be notified of each report received relating to a child reported missing from a foster care family home or childcare institution.  Furthermore, H.R. 181 clarifies the definition of a sex trafficker to include those who purchase, solicit, or patronize sex acts from human trafficking victims, and reduces the burden of proof on prosecutors to prove that a defendant knew or recklessly disregarded that the victim was under the age of eighteen.

H.R. 181 directs the DOJ to use its existing law enforcement task force established through the Innocence Lost National Initiative to focus on fighting demand for human trafficking.  This legislation also increases the standard for child predators to claim an affirmative defense by requiring defendants to show by clear and convincing evidence that they believed the victim to be 18 years of age or older.  Finally, this legislation improves oversight by allowing the Inspector General of the DOJ to audit grant recipients, and imposes limits on the use of DOJ funds for DOJ conferences involving more than $20,000.

H.R. 181 is similar to H.R. 3530, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which passed on May 20, 2014 by a vote 409-0.  (See Roll Call #221)

Background

According to the FBI, sex trafficking is the most common form of modern-day slavery, the fastest-growing business of organized crime, and the third largest criminal enterprise in the world.[1]  While human trafficking is thought to be predominantly an international phenomenon, many individuals are currently at risk of domestic sex trafficking.  A 2011 study estimated that 293,000 young people in the U.S. were at risk of becoming victims of sex trafficking, and the FBI estimates that between 2008 and 2010, 83 percent of trafficking victims found within the U.S. were U.S. citizens.[2]  According to Shared Hope International, human trafficking is a $9.8 billion industry.[3]  The average age at which minors enter the sex trade is between 12 and 14 years.[4]  The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) establishes that it is a federal crime to engage in interstate sex trafficking and states that regardless of whether a child represents himself or herself as an adult and has consented to sex, the child is considered to be a trafficking victim under federal law.

While much of the effort to combat trafficking focuses on the supply-side of minor sex trafficking, it is also a crime to purchase sex with minor.  However, identifying buyers is extremely difficult.  This legislation attempts to respond to the growing crime of minor sex trafficking by providing law enforcement with better tools to address the problem; addressing the demand side of trafficking; and providing services to victims of trafficking crimes.

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[1] Amanda Walker-Rodriguez and Rodney Hill, FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin: Human Sex Trafficking, (Mar. 2011).
[2] Richard J. Estes and Neil Alan Weiner, Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico (University of Pennsylvania, Executive Summary, 2001) ; see also http://www.rights4girls.org/#!trafficking-of-girls/cthj.
[3] Shared Hope International, Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking in the U.S., http://sharedhope.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Infographic_DMST_with_sources.pdf.
[4] http://www.rights4girls.org/#!trafficking-of-girls/cthj

Cost

A CBO cost estimate is currently unavailable.

Additional Information

For questions or further information contact the GOP Conference at 5-5107.