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Monday, January 17, 2022

OPINION:

Whether through sex trafficking or forced labor, millions of people across the world fall victim to human trafficking every year.

Unfortunately, the United States is not immune to this widespread and pervasive atrocity. The U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline was contacted 48,258 times and reported 11,494 cases of human trafficking in 2019. In 2020, the Hotline was contacted over 51,600 times, with over 10,500 reported cases of human trafficking. This form of modern-day slavery is criminal and has no place in our country. January has been designated as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month to increase public awareness about these heinous crimes.


The Department of Homeland Security is on the frontlines in the fight to stop these inhumane activities. Coordinating the DHS-wide effort is the Center for Countering Human Trafficking. Led by the Homeland Security Investigations arm of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the CCHT comprises 16 offices and components, including the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. This unified coordination center strives to advance counter-human trafficking law enforcement operations, protect victims and enhance prevention efforts by aligning DHS’ capabilities and expertise.

Further, DHS’ Blue Campaign increases public engagement on anti-human trafficking efforts by providing awareness to law enforcement, industry partners and the public on the indicators of human trafficking and how best to respond.

As lead Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery, I am incredibly proud of the commitment exhibited by the Department of Homeland Security to stop these criminal activities and ensure that our communities are safe.

For many years, stopping the devastating atrocity that is human trafficking has been a cause that is very near and dear to my heart. As deputy chief of staff for Florida’s 3rd Congressional District, I worked for eight years providing oversight on Rep. Ted Yoho’s Human Trafficking Task Force. During that time, I worked with our local community college in Gainesville to establish training programs focused on human trafficking prevention within the law enforcement community. As the wife of a first responder, this was especially important.

After becoming a member of Congress, one of my first actions was to host a roundtable with representatives from DHS and local officials to talk about the many challenges we face when combatting these crimes, including the stigmas and stereotypes often associated with human trafficking.

I also traveled with law enforcement officials to McAllen and Mission, Texas, where we spoke with DHS officials at the border about the human smuggling operations that have continued to traffic migrants — and American citizens — in the United States. Several human trafficking rings that DHS has broken up have ties to Florida, operating around our area and along the major highways that weave throughout our state.

More recently, in commemoration of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, I plan to introduce legislation to expand the availability of Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers to host their Human Trafficking Awareness Training program to state and local law enforcement and first responders. This program helps federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement officials better identify indicators and properly respond to potential human trafficking situations. And I am pleased to announce that this month, one such HTAT program will be hosted in Florida’s 3rd Congressional District.

Going forward, I remain committed to supporting the vital work done by DHS, state and local law enforcement officials, and other agencies to combat human trafficking.

If you are interested in learning more about my office’s efforts on this issue or want to learn more, please visit my office’s website at www.cammack.house.gov or check out the Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign at www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign.

• Rep. Kat Cammack is the U.S. representative for Florida’s 3rd Congressional District.


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