House overwhelmingly passes Smith’s newest legislation to combat human trafficking
WASHINGTON—Ahead of this Saturday’s World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, the House of Representatives today overwhelmingly passed critical anti-trafficking legislation—the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2022—authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) together with Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) in a strong bipartisan vote of 401-20.
“Human traffickers never take a holiday, nor can we,” said Smith, who has chaired more than 35 hearings and written five anti-trafficking laws including the Nation’s historic Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. “Because traffickers and the nefarious networks they lead always find new ways to exploit the vulnerable, especially women and children, we must aggressively strengthen laws and their implementation.”
“The enormous support in the House for this critical human rights and law enforcement legislation is a testament to a widespread consensus and underscores the absolute urgency for securing the funds needed to protect victims, prosecute perpetrators and prevent trafficking from occurring in the first place,” Smith said.
“During my career as a health care worker and legislator, I have seen too many instances of human rights violations against children and other vulnerable populations—including those falling victim to the abuses of human trafficking, both in the U.S. and around the world,” said Rep. Bass. “We must take this issue seriously and continue to implement a whole-of-government approach to addressing it. The Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2022 moves to do this not only in supporting those who have already fallen victim, but to also prevent future trafficking and bring perpetrators to justice. We must swiftly pass this bipartisan measure to protect the most vulnerable among us.”
“Today’s legislation will also reauthorize the amazing work being done by Homeland Security’s Angel Watch Center—a project mandated by my International Megan’s Law (IML) enacted in 2016,” said Smith, Co-chair of the Human Trafficking Caucus, which he co-founded 15 years ago.
“In just a few years under IML, the Angel Watch Center has made more than 19,000 notifications of planned travel by convicted sex offenders with more than 7,000 individuals who committed sex crimes against children denied travel, helping to reduce child sex tourism,” Smith said.
Among its key provisions, the Smith-Bass legislation will:
- Provide more than $1.1 billion over five years to reauthorize and enhance successful programs established by Smith’s TVPA such as shelters, mental health care, education, life skills and job training;
- Reauthorize Homeland Security’s Angel Watch Center codified by Smith’s International Megan’s Law (P.L. 114-119) to prevent international sex tourism travel by convicted child sex offenders;
- Enhance trafficking prevention education for children by involving parents and law enforcement in age-appropriate programs to assist in the prevention of child trafficking as well as online grooming; and
- Provide $35 million for housing opportunities to help women escape living with their abusers and to help prevent trafficking of graduated foster youth.
“This critical legislation will go a long way toward protecting so many vulnerable people from exploitation while providing tremendous support and resources to victims. It also reaffirms America’s leadership and commitment to fighting for an end to modern-day slavery,” said Smith, who earlier this month met with the newly announced 2022 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report Heroes—individuals from around the world whose tireless efforts have made a lasting impact on the fight against human trafficking.
Passed by the House, the Smith-Bass legislation now advances to the Senate, where it is expected to receive strong bipartisan consensus.