VIDEO: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Delivers Remarks Urging Congress to Pass Relief for Survivors of Human Trafficking

May 24, 2017
Press Release

Washington, DCCongresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) spoke on the House floor today urging Congress to pass the Trafficking Survivors Relief Act (H.R.459), a bill she helped introduce earlier this year. The bipartisan legislation would create a process for survivors of human trafficking to get relief from non-violent federal crimes committed as a direct result of human trafficking.

Video of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard's Speech is Available Here 

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said:

“Last month I was in my district in Hawaiʻi, and we traveled all across the state, on every island, holding town hall meetings on a variety of issues. One of the meetings and forums that I participated in was at the University of Hawaiʻi-Hilo, and it was specifically around this issue of human trafficking, of sex trafficking.

“In this small community in Hawaiʻi, many people had gathered to increase their awareness and share information about the prevalence of this issue. Not just in places in other parts of the world, but in our communities right here at home. I think that's something that surprises a lot of folks that I talk to - that human trafficking is not just a problem in cities in Asia or other parts of the world, but it is happening in their own backyard, in their own hometown.

“This is a very real issue that exists in far too many of our hometowns and our communities all across the country. In my home state of Hawaiʻi, girls as young as 11 years old have been recruited from schools, from beaches, and malls through an intricate network of sex traffickers. In 2016 last year, 30 cases of human trafficking were reported to the Human Trafficking Hotline in Hawaiʻi. Almost all of them had to do with the exploitation of women for sex and labor. And in 10 of these cases, the individuals targeted were minors.

“What is terribly disturbing is how underreported this actually is - that these numbers are not at all representative of the reality that exists in our communities because trafficking is more common than the number of cases reported. Too often those who are forced into trafficking are charged as criminals and are forced to live with a criminal record for the rest of their lives, never being able to escape the shackles of nonviolent crimes committed in the course of their being victims of human trafficking.

“This often inhibits them from getting the care and assistance that they really need -- to be free, to be able to move on with their lives. Our current criminal justice system is broken in so many ways and perpetuates a cycle of crime, exploitation, and poverty stripping the most exploited and vulnerable individuals in our society of a fair chance for a new life and healing from unimaginable abuses perpetuated by truly evil criminals.

“At the local level, in states like Hawaiʻi, we've passed legislation that bans sex trafficking and classifies it as a class A felony, but that's not enough. That's why I’m so proud to be a co-sponsor of the trafficking survivors relief act because it creates the promise of freedom for those survivors from the shackles of their past. It establishes a process to vacate convictions and expunge arrests for those charged with criminal offenses related to human trafficking and finally putting survivors on a path to rehabilitation and healing, rather than a life of continued exploitation and abuse. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to get this legislation passed and actually enact this change so it helps those in our communities who need it the most.”

Background: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is an original co-sponsor on the Trafficking Survivors Relief Act (H.R.459) which would clear the criminal records of victims of human trafficking, applying to non-violent crimes committed by individuals as a direct result of human trafficking.

This week Gabbard supported a series of human trafficking bills in the House, including the Global Child Protection Act (H.R. 1862), the Strengthening Children's Safety Act of 2017 (H.R. 1842), and the TARGET Act (H.R. 1625), which she co-sponsored. The House also passed the Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act of 2017 (H.R. 1188), the Targeting Child Predators Act of 2017 (H.R. 883), and the Child Protection Improvements Act of 2017 ( H.R. 695) human trafficking bills.

Human trafficking is a modern day form of slavery affecting millions in the United States and abroad. This crime involves either the use of force, fraud, or coercion to exploit a person for labor or commercial sex, or the exploitation of a minor for commercial sex. As a result of being trafficked, victims are commonly charged with crimes such as conspiracy, money laundering, drug trafficking, and related offenses that then follow them throughout the duration of their lives. These charges make it difficult for human trafficking victims to find jobs and housing, leaving them vulnerable to being exploited and trafficked again.

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