Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas)
This January marks a historic event—the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA). This bipartisan law established a framework to combat human trafficking across the globe. Unfortunately, although this law made major strides to combat human trafficking, this form of modern-day slavery is still pervasive around the world.
Slavery is generally believed to be a thing of the past, but the truth is human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery—an awful crime that happens all too often and affects far too many. In the 2019 annual Trafficking in Persons Report mandated by TVPA, the State Department concluded that 24.9 million people across the globe are trapped in the multibillion-dollar modern slave industry—roughly three times the population of New York City.
Many use the terms “human smuggling” and “human trafficking” interchangeably, but they’re different. Human smuggling involves covertly bringing individuals into a country to avoid immigration laws, whereas human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to compel a person to perform an act. Human trafficking is typically broken into two categories: sex trafficking and labor trafficking. While sex trafficking relates to a person who is forced to engage in a commercial sex act, labor trafficking is when a person is subjected to involuntary servitude, debt bondage or slavery.
Don’t be fooled thinking there’s no way something like this happens in our country. Human trafficking occurs in the United States every day in the form of commercial sex trade, domestic servitude and forced labor.
In 2018, the United States, along with Mexico and the Philippines, were ranked as the world’s top places of origin for human trafficking. A joint study by the University of Texas at Austin and Allies Against Slavery showed that traffickers exploit approximately $600 million from victims in the Lone Star State every year.
Human traffickers generate hundreds of billions of dollars worldwide in profits by trapping millions of people in horrific situations, profiting off the suffering of innocent men, women, and young children. Human trafficking rings threaten the security and safety of our communities, nation and the world, and when it comes to stopping these dangerous predators, everyone can help.
These astonishing statistics reveal the sad reality that the battle has not yet been won, but that does not mean we give up fighting to end this problem. My first year in Congress, I was proud to support the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which has helped law enforcement take down more traffickers. Just a few months ago, a measure I introduced making human trafficking, human smuggling, and drug trafficking in the Northern Triangle and Mexico a national intelligence priority was signed into law.
In 2010, The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) created their Blue Campaign to combat human trafficking by educating the public, law enforcement and other industry partners to recognize the indicators of human trafficking. Just this past week, DHS announced a partnership with American Airlines, which is headquartered right here in Texas.
The airline company is joining with DHS to provide human trafficking awareness training to their more than 60,000 employees, including flight attendants, pilots and customer service team members. This partnership is an invaluable opportunity to educate the public about the crime of human trafficking and is a prime example that we all have a part to play in ending modern-day slavery.
Efforts are also being made to combat human trafficking right here in South and West Texas. City leaders in San Antonio recently held a news conference focusing on ways to identify and empower victims, and the San Antonio Police Department has organized events and posted information to their website raising awareness around the issue. Across Southeast Texas, billboards were put up as part of the #CanYouSeeMe campaign aimed at bringing awareness to trafficking and child exploitation.
There’s something we all can do to prevent human trafficking. January is National Human Trafficking and Slavery Prevention Month, so I encourage you to learn more about the signs of human trafficking by visiting dhs.gov/bluecampaign. And if you think you know someone who might be a victim of human trafficking, you can call the Human Trafficking Hotline – 1-888-373-7888.
A former undercover CIA officer, entrepreneur and cybersecurity expert, Will Hurd is the U.S. Representative for the 23rd Congressional District of Texas. In Washington, he serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, where he is the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Intelligence Modernization and Readiness, and the House Committee on Appropriations, where he serves on the Subcommittees on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development.