( Opelika Observer) — Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) recently introduced the bipartisan Human Trafficking and Exploitation Prevention Training Act of 2020 along with his colleagues U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Tina Smith (D-Minnesota). Their bill would help prevent the trafficking and exploitation of children by providing grants to train students, parents, teachers and school personnel to recognize and respond to signs of human trafficking.
While trafficking victims come from all walks of life and do not fit a particular profile, young people with certain risk factors may be more vulnerable to trafficking. For example, they may be at risk if they are in the child welfare or juvenile justice system, are homeless or ran away from home, or are unaccompanied or were forced to leave their home by their caregivers.
“Every year, thousands of people, mostly women and children, are trafficked across the state of Alabama. The battle against human trafficking is one that we have to wage on all fronts, but our teachers and school personnel are on the front lines. With additional training and resources, we can continue to raise awareness about the signs of trafficking and hopefully prevent this systemic exploitation of children and other vulnerable people,” Jones said, who is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.
“Alabama has been fighting sex trafficking and exploitation since 2009. We continue to see more and more cases each year affecting school-aged children and even children as young as four years old. The Human Trafficking and Exploitation Prevention Training Act of 2020 will enable us to target the appropriate demographic with much-needed prevention training and education in schools and equip our children, along with their teachers, parents, and other school employees, to know the signs and dangers of trafficking and exploitation and how to avoid becoming a victim. Thank you, Senator Jones, for sponsoring this very important prevention bill,” said Pat McCay, chair of the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force.
This legislation would:
• authorize the director of the Office of Trafficking in Persons in the Administration of Children and Families (ACF) to establish a demonstration project to issue grants to non-profit organizations and schools to develop and implement age-appropriate, culturally competent, and gender-responsive curriculum for training students, parents, teachers and school personnel to understand, recognize, prevent and respond to signs of human trafficking;
• instruct the director to give priority to eligible entities serving geographic areas with the highest prevalence of human trafficking and areas with the highest prevalence of at-risk, vulnerable, or underserved populations including homeless youth, foster youth, youth involved in the child welfare system and runaways; and,
• set forth important data collection on the human trafficking/exploitation of children and strict, privacy-protected reporting requirements for the program.
As a former US Attorney, Senator Jones understands the complexity of human trafficking, and he has championed legislation that would prevent the targeting of vulnerable people. He is an original cosponsor of the bipartisan ILLICIT Cash Act (S.2563), which helps law enforcement to combat illicit financial activity being carried out by human traffickers. Corporate secrecy can fuel human trafficking, protecting traffickers from law enforcement and prosecution, and this legislation will help increase transparency and expose bad actors. Senator Jones has also supported renewal of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which includes important anti-trafficking provisions and has encouraged the Office of Management and Budget to provide robust funding for VAWA grants.
In 2018, Senator Jones also cosponsored the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), which allowed law enforcement and civil litigants to target web platforms harboring and hosting sex trafficking activity. The House of Representatives version of the bill passed both chambers of Congress and was signed into law in April 2018.
If you believe you have information about a trafficking situation, you can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline for 24/7 confidential assistance at 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733.
(Staff, Opelika Observer)