Modern-day slavery.

When I lived in Texas, I learned more about the horror and despair of human trafficking than I ever thought there was to know. It’s the fastest growing business of organized crime, and especially in places along the border, it shows. It took me a long time to truly understand that, in (then) 2012, there were still people in this country whose trade involved the exchange of money for human flesh.

The U.S. House of Representatives is taking advantage of this week’s Super Bowl hype to tackle the problem head-on. Right now, human traffickers are shipping in their young victims to take advantage of the influx of tourists into Phoenix, Arizona—and while the police can help combat the rampant exploitation, they don’t have the manpower or resources to reverse the tide. The House has launched a sweeping initiative to fight the horrors of human trafficking, and they’re starting with a dozen bills and a big messaging push aimed at helping people understand how dangerous the situation has become for 20 million people worldwide:

From the House Republican Caucus:

trafficking infographic

Yesterday, the House moved a dozen anti-human trafficking bills on to the Senate. The purpose of those bills is to improve the tools available to law enforcement, identify and develop best practices to prevent human trafficking, help victim survivors recover, and train government employees on how to properly detect and respond to human trafficking—and they passed on a bipartisan basis.

The Senate will take up similar initiatives. Earlier this month, a bipartisan coalition introduced the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which seeks to help law enforcement fight human trafficking, and bring about justice for victims. Among other things, the bill would:

  • Create a deficit-neutral “Domestic Trafficking Victims’ Fund,” financed through fines on related crimes, which the Attorney General can use to enhance support programs for victims of human trafficking and child pornography.
  • Create a new grant program to help states and local governments develop victim-centered programs to rescue victims, prosecute human traffickers, and restore the lives of victims. This grant program will be funded entirely through the “Domestic Trafficking Victims’ Fund” created by the bill.
  • Prioritize victim restoration and witness assistance for trafficking survivors by directing the proceeds of forfeited criminal assets to pay victim restitution orders and fund financial awards for witnesses who come forward and assist law enforcement.

In a floor speech yesterday, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) explained (at the 7:00 mark) why the problem of sex trafficking is intimately related to the same type of activity engaged in by the cartels and coyotes that smuggle illegal immigrants across the border:

This effort is something all conservatives can get behind—especially those who have pushed so hard for a comprehensive fix to to our fatally flawed immigration system. Is it a 100% fix? No, but it’s a start that has the potential to change the lives of millions of exploited men, women, and children.