In Lead-Up to Senate Debate On Anti-Trafficking Legislation, Support Builds For Efforts To Protect Runaway & Homeless Youth From Human Traffickers

NYT editorial: “A consensus is emerging” to protect vulnerable kids from trafficking

WASHINGTON – March 9, 2015 – (RealE stateRama) –As the Senate prepares to consider legislation to combat human trafficking as soon as next week, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is urging lawmakers to support meaningful legislation to prevent vulnerable youth from becoming targets of trafficking and sexual exploitation.

The push also comes as bipartisan support is rallying behind the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (S. 262), a bill Leahy coauthored with Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) to reauthorize effective programs that support vulnerable runaway and homeless children and protect them from being trafficked. The lawmakers are working to ensure their bipartisan bill receives a floor vote when the Senate turns to trafficking legislation.

Leahy also focused on the plight of today’s runaway and homeless youth in an op-ed for the HuffingtonPost with Holly Austin Smith, a survivor of trafficking and advocate who testified before the Judiciary Committee last month.

“We must do all we can to hold human traffickers responsible and to help survivors of trafficking rebuild their lives,” Leahy and Smith wrote in the op-ed posted late Thursday. “But if we are serious about addressing this problem, we must also act to prevent this devastating crime from happening in the first place. And that means making sure that all our children have a safe place to sleep.”

The New York Times also weighed in on the issue in an editorial Thursday, writing: “The impression that America’s sex-trafficking problem mostly involves young people smuggled from overseas has given way to broad recognition of a cruel homegrown reality: the tens of thousands of juveniles who are exploited each year by traffickers in this country.”

“On Capitol Hill, a consensus is emerging on new initiatives to confront this human-rights problem and help its victims, often runaways or homeless youngsters who have been forced or coerced into prostitution,” the editorial added.

Several women Senators led by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) also spoke about the issue of human trafficking in a series of floor statements earlier this week. The bipartisan group of women focused on a series of bills moving through the Senate and talked about the need for a comprehensive approach that includes preventing children from being trafficked.

The Leahy-Collins bill currently has 29 cosponsors and is supported by the National Network for Youth, the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking, the True Colors Fund, the Center for American Progress, and the Human Rights Campaign.

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