Media Advisory: Sex Trafficking Hearing Set for February 26
Washington, D.C. (February 19, 2014) –The House Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) Appropriations subcommittee will hold a hearing on human trafficking at 10 a.m., Wednesday, February 26 in H 309 in the Capitol.
The witnesses are:
Human trafficking survivor and anti-trafficking advocate who frequently works with
Shared Hope International and Youth for Tomorrow
Detective William Woolf
Fairfax County Police Department
John D. Ryan
President and Chief Executive Officer, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Co-Chairperson, Arizona Governor’s Task Force on Human Trafficking
During the week leading up to Super Bowl, law enforcement officials made nearly 200 arrests for sex trafficking and related crimes and 16 children, some as young as 13, were rescued from the sex trade, according to media reports.
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), chairman of the CJS subcommittee, has long worked to shine a bright light on the insidious nature of human trafficking and has been pushing the Obama Administration to address the issue more aggressively. Wolf inserted a number of provisions in the 2014 Omnibus spending bill recently signed into law aimed at combating sex trafficking, including language directing the Justice Department to report on its efforts to target Web sites like Backpage.com that facilitate trafficking. Wolf has repeatedly pressed the Justice Department to assess whether the current legal framework allows law enforcement to prosecute entities that serve as a conduit for buying and selling men, women and children online.
Wolf also has worked to increase awareness about sex trafficking in the 10th District of Virginia and the surrounding region. He has hosted and participated in forums on the issue, regularly meets with anti-trafficking organizations and remains in close contact with local law enforcement.
“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery,” Wolf said. “The assumption that these heinous crimes happen only in faraway lands is misguided. It is happening right here in our backyard. Many of us drive by it every day and don’t even realize it.”
Wolf regularly points to the following examples:
· A June 2013 Washingtonian Magazine article about how area girls were targeted on Facebook, at Metro stations and even in Fairfax County Public Schools. Det. Woolf, who is one of the hearing witnesses, is featured prominently in the piece.
· A press release from the U.S Attorney’s Office – Eastern District of Virginia about the sentencing of the owner of an Annandale-based massage parlor to 30 months in prison for transporting women to work as prostitutes and laundering the proceeds from the illegal activity.
· Court documents involving a Georgia man who pleaded guilty in federal court in Alexandria in 2013 of trafficking underage girls in northern Virginia. According to the documents, the girls were prostituted at the following hotels: Homestead Studio Suites in Sterling; Aloft Hotel in Ashburn; Dulles Crown Plaza Hotel in Herndon; Holiday Inn Express in Herndon; Washington Dulles Marriott Suites in Herndon; and the Hyatt House Hotel in Herndon.
· A September 2013 Washington Post article about how local gangs are finding that trafficking women and young girls is more profitable than trafficking drugs.
Wolf is holding the hearing to get a fuller picture of the nature of human trafficking in the region and to assess nationwide trends in this growing criminal enterprise, including the means of exploitation and ways in which law enforcement at every level can better tackle this problem. He also hopes that the hearing will further sensitize parents and community leaders as to how this exploitation takes place and steps that can be taken to prevent it and to support survivors of this crime.
Wolf said the FY 2014 spending bill directs the FBI to increase the amount of resources dedicated to human trafficking, improve coordination with other law enforcement agencies to better address trafficking and regularly report to Congress on what it is doing to fight trafficking.
Wolf said the bill also provides nearly $14.25 million for grants to help victims of trafficking and provides funding for the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit and Anti-Trafficking Coordination Teams, including $88.5 million for youth mentoring grants and $67 million for missing and exploited children programs.
In addition to the language on trafficking, the bill also provides $417 million for the Office of Violence Against Women, which is higher than both the FY 2013 level and the president’s 2014 budget request.
Under the bill, the Attorney General is required to submit a comprehensive report on all DOJ anti-trafficking activities, including legislative proposals to bolster anti-trafficking enforcement. The Justice Department also is required to detail any action it has taken to investigate allegations of human trafficking or abuse of nonimmigrant visa holders to enforce a policy of zero tolerance for sex and labor trafficking by federal contractors.
U.S. Attorneys also are expected to maintain their human trafficking task forces and to continue to undertake proactive investigations, including investigations of persons or entities facilitating trafficking in persons through the use of classified advertising on the Internet. In addition, the Justice Department must continue its outreach in the form of public notices with regard to the prevalence of human trafficking activities and report to the CJS subcommittee on its efforts.