Sex Crimes

11 Human-Trafficking Bills Passed by U.S. House Tuesday

The good, the bad, and the worse

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On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a spate of bills addressing human trafficking. Though politicians on both sides of the aisle have been crowing about their good work here, the bills do very little to address labor trafficking, which comprises the majority of human trafficking, according to the U.S. State Department. Rather, most focus on the more salacious prospect of sex trafficking, especially the sex trafficking of minors. 

The sheer number of anti-sex trafficking bills that have been introduced in the new Congress (17), by both Democrats and Republicans, should tell us something. Either sex trafficking has suddenly reached epidemic proportions in America, or it's become the showboat du jour for preening politicians. Most signs point to the latter. 

Of the 11 anti-trafficking bills passed by the House yesterday, few seem likely to really help victims or make any actual dent in the problem. But they do a fine job of making it look like legislators are doing something. They have snazzy, important-sounding names like the "Human Trafficking Detection Act of 2015" and "International Megan's Law to Prevent Demand for Child Sex Trafficking." They mandate reports! reclassifications! distance-learning courses on preventing trafficking! 

As you'll see below, most of the bills merely add layers of bureaucracy and authorize funding to pad these layers. A few provisions may benefit trafficking victims. A few create perverse prosecution incentives that may swell the federal jail population, but not with sex traffickers. Here's a brief breakdown of the individual bills: 

H.R. 181, sponsored by Rep. Ted Poe (R-Tex.): Changes federal criminal code to subject anyone who "patronizes or solicits" commercial sex from someone under 18-years-old to a mandatory minimum federal prison sentence of 10 to 15 years (up to life). Raises the standard under which a defendent charged with soliciting commercial sex from a minor must prove they didn't know the minor's age, from "a preponderance of the evidence" to "clear and convincing evidence." 

The bill, known as the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015, would also give more money to state and local law enforcement for anti-sex trafficking task forces, rescue missions, and prosecution units; set up special court programs that include "continuing judicial supervision of (people) who have been identified by a law enforcement … as a potential victim of child human trafficking, regardless of whether the victim has been charged with a crime related to human trafficking"; and create state-administered outpatient treatment centers for trafficking victims, among other things.

H.R. 515, sponsored by Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.): Creates an "Angel Watch Center" within the Department of Homeland Security which will "facilitate the implementation of an international sex offender travel notification system in the United States and in other countries." The center would notify foreign countries whenever a U.S. citizen convicted of a child-related sex crime was traveling there, as well as collect such information from other countries (and provide money to other countries to help them comply)

H.R. 159, from Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.): Allocates money for the development and creation of a "national human trafficking hotline." Authorizes the Attorney General "to give preferential consideration in awarding Community Oriented Police Services grants" to applicants in states that treat minors engaged in prostitution as victims rather than criminals. 

H.R. 460, sponsored by Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.): Implements a training program to help Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Customs and Border Protection officials learn "how to effectively deter, detect, and disrupt human trafficking." 

H.R. 469, from Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.): Conditions eligibility to receive state grants for child abuse prevention on the state having a law or program dedicated to identifying and providing services for child sex-trafficking victims. Requires the HHS Secretary to report to Congress on child trafficking prevalence, state anti-trafficking practices, and "any barriers in federal laws or regulations that may prevent identification and assessment of children who are such victims." 

H.R. 514, from Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.): Changes the status of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking to a Bureau to Monitor and Combat Trafficking and changes the way we classify foreign countries on our "special watch list" for those not living up to U.S. trafficking-elimination standards.

H.R. 357, from Rep. Sean Maloney (D-N.Y.): Requires certain federal personnel to take "a distance learning course on trafficking-in-persons issues," U.S. ambassadors to receive "specific trafficking-in-persons briefings," and "at least annual reminders" to various federal personnel about "key problems, threats, methods, and warning signs of trafficking in persons." 

H.R. 468, from Rep. Joseph Heck (R-Nev.): Requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to give priority to staff training projects that relate to sex trafficking and authorizes the Secretary to make grants to private nonprofit agencies providing services to "runaway and homeless, and street youth, who have been subjected to, or are at risk of being subjected to, sexual abuse, prostitution, or sexual exploitation." 

H.R. 246, from Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio): Changes the language the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children must use for its "cyber tipline" from "child prostitution" to "child sex trafficking, including child prostitution." 

H.R. 350, from Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.): Requires the Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking to survey "state activities to deter individuals from committing trafficking offenses," review the "academic literature on deterring individuals from committing trafficking offenses" and identify "best practices and strategies." Also requires the Government Accountability Office to report to Congress about trafficking issues and authorizes grants for programs that assist trafficking victims with housing. 

H.R. 398, from Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.): Allocates funding for the development and dissemation of anti-trafficking training for health care professionals.

The bill that worries me the most is the first one, H.R. 181. Making it a federal crime (with a minimum 10-year prison sentence) to so much as solicit commerical sex from a minor is exactly the kind of thing federal officials will use to entrap folks into agreeing to sex with an imaginary 17-year-old and then send them to prison for a few decades. Why would they do this? Because it's easier than catching actual sex traffickers, and they still get to indicate that they caught sex traffickers on all these new reports they have to submit, plus use the evidence of their good work to get more of the new funding going to the issue. 

That may sound paranoid to some, but every week I read multiple local-news reports from around the country about "sex trafficking stings." And in all but the rarest of instances, these stings result in nothing but the arrest of adults engaged in consensual prostitution. Yet neither the cops, the "rescue" nonprofits they've consulted with, nor the media reporting on these stings make much of the distinction. Adult sex workers are frequently given the choice of prostitution charges and possible jail time, or programs for "trafficking victims." Then these programs—and the police departments and government agencies backing them—use all the women they've coerced into attending to artificially inflate the numbers of "victims," which in turn serves as evidence that more money, more stings, and more legislative effort needs to be expended. This is basically the incentive system that H.R. 181 would be federalizing. 

NEXT: Why Did Rolling Stone Writer Choose UVA, Not Vanderbilt, for Gang Rape Exposé?

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  1. Define sex-trafficking to mean common prostitution, and suddenly there’s an epidemic of sex-trafficking! Who’d a thunk it?

  2. Wait, Congress sends out bills for human trafficking? Why are they hiring people to do such a thing?

  3. Raise your hand if you believe these bills, if signed into Law, will be used for many other interesting violations of people’s rights rather than their stated purpose.

    1. What other purpose would there be? If something is illegal, only one law is needed, simple as that.

      I shudder to think what sort of liberty killing, civil rights destroying, constitution burning horrors are hiding in these bills.

  4. H.R. 181, sponsored by Rep. Ted Poe (R-Tex.): Changes federal criminal code to subject anyone who “patronizes or solicits” commercial sex from someone under 18-years-old to a mandatory minimum federal prison sentence of 10 to 15 years (up to life). Raises the standard under which a defendent charged with soliciting commercial sex from a minor must prove they didn’t know the minor’s age, from “a preponderance of the evidence” to “clear and convincing evidence.”

    Jesus fucking christ.

    1. “Clear and convincing”? Jesus. Considering you can be convicted of statutory rape even if you are shown a real-looking fake ID showing the girl to be 18, how is any defendant supposed to meet this standard?

      1. Being that police don’t arrest innocent people (they arrest “bad guys”), this is just making sure that criminals don’t weasel their way out of prison. Duh.

    2. So if I solicit a 17 year old in a state where it’s legal to have sex with a 17 year old, I get to spend 15 years to life in jail for engaging in a consensual sexual activity with a girl who is of legal age under state law.

      This is goddamn brilliant.

      “Raises the standard under which a defendent charged with soliciting commercial sex from a minor must prove they didn’t know the minor’s age, from “a preponderance of the evidence” to “clear and convincing evidence.””

      How the fuck do you prove you didn’t know someone’s age?

      1. I’m glad I’m married. I don’t have to deal with the now very complicated world of sex in modern America.

      2. How the fuck do you prove you didn’t know someone’s age?

        Teenagers never lie and say they are 18 when they aren’t.

        It seems to me that even under the higher standard the presumption should be that the defendant didn’t know the age. Unless they are really pre-pubescent children, you can’t tell by looking. I don’t know the ages of most people I interact with on a daily basis. How would anyone have any way of knowing the age of a prostitute? Unless you know them personally, the evidence is pretty clear that you have absolutely no way of knowing their age.

        Of course, that’s just me. I think my standards of evidence are probably a bit stronger that what is usual in the courts. I can find reasonable doubt about pretty much anything.

      3. Look, we need more prisons and people to fill them up. Do you know what’s happening around the country? Well, I’ll tell you, they’re legalizing pot, that’s what!

        Why do you hate the children and the noble employees of the prison system industrial complex?

        You’re one of those scofflaws.

    3. But mandatory minimums have worked so well in the WoD!!

      I don’t even know that there’s a “problem” with sex trafficking in this country, as ENB says. I occasionally read Maggie McNeill, and her data shows something else. For example, she says a very small number of whores even have a pimp. Most are working independently, even the street walkers.

  5. H.R. 404, from Rep. Fist of Etiquette (W-State of Awesome): The I Hate Human Trafficking More Than You Because Of The Children Act of 2015 makes it a criminal sexual assault to not vote for me because I am a champion of the ladies and if you don’t want me in office you must want rape.

    1. H.R. 69 (huh, huh, huh) from Agammamon (Welcome to AZ, now go home): The ‘This rape-culture stuff is bullshit law’ resolves that ‘Ladies, it is THIS big. Point to a hole for it or I shall make one myself’.

  6. Making it a federal crime (with a minimum 10-year prison sentence) to so much as solicit commerical sex from a minor is exactly the kind of thing federal officials will use to entrap folks into agreeing to sex with an imaginary 17-year-old and then send them to prison for a few decades.

    Just the other day, there were people commenting on these pages on how this practice was fine and dandy.

    1. Seriously? Glad I missed that thread, I guess. Link?

      1. Wait. You’re glad you missed and now you want a link? Just walk away Jordan, just walk away.

        1. I can’t help myself.

  7. And in real sex-trafficking news: Quebec teen raped by sex offender in police vehicle suing for ‘gross misconduct’

    Police had been called to remove the woman, who had been drinking while visiting relatives, from the premises at the request of the homeowner.

    According to civil lawsuit documents filed at Quebec Superior Court last fall and initially obtained by La Presse, the woman was handcuffed and put in the back of a police car with a man who had been arrested earlier for causing a disturbance at another residence.

    The man, Joe Kritik, had already been convicted of four sexual assaults at the time and was listed on the sexual offender registry.

    He was not handcuffed.

    The lone officer responsible, who had been on the job less than a month and was not authorized to carry a handgun, left the two in the back of the vehicle while she gathered details about the young woman from the complainant.

    1. Is this an example of WINNING?

    2. But did the heroic officer make it home safely?

      1. She was allowed to retire. But there was a finding of no misconduct.

  8. Another terrible aspect of all of this is that it probably does more harm than good for people who are actually victims of sexual trafficking and exploitation. By expanding the definition to include lots of ordinary, voluntary prostitution you make the class of supposedly trafficked people so large that the chance of catching a legitimate case will drop. And you will also see a lot of people who see how ridiculous these proposals are stop caring about actual victims of rape, slavery and violence.

  9. Pay attention to some of the phrases used in these bills:

    other countries (and provide money to other countries to help them comply)

    Allocates money for the development and creation

    Conditions eligibility to receive state grants for

    awarding Community Oriented Police Services grants

    authorizes the Secretary to make grants to private nonprofit agencies

    Allocates funding for the development

    The only purpose our elected officials serve today is to distribute the spoils of your tax money. Anyone who thinks otherwise is beyond naive.

    We already have too many fucking laws. Send all of these assholes home and appoint an emergency council to go to Washington with only one agenda. Repeal 90% of all laws passed by congress over the last 100 years and fucking CUT SPENDING!

  10. Wasn’t this already illegal?

  11. Where was the one to rationalize the treatment of unaccompanied minors when crossing into the United States from Canada v. Mexico?

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