U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing titled “Force Multipliers: How Transportation and Supply Chain Stakeholders are Combatting Human Trafficking” at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, July 12, 2017. The hearing will explore the role of transportation providers and supply chains in fighting the growth of sex trafficking in the United States and slave labor in the global economy. Witnesses have been asked to testify about challenges and successful strategies in combating human trafficking, which has grown into an estimated $150 billion-dollar industry with cases in Washington, D.C. and across the country.
“Slave labor operations and sex trafficking are lurking in the shadows of global commerce and our domestic transportation networks,” said Thune. “This hearing will put a spotlight on the problem and underscore responsible steps reputable businesses can take to help put an end to it.”
- Ms. Esther Goetsch, Coalition Building Specialist, Truckers Against Trafficking
- Mr. Samir Goswami, Technical Consultant, Technology Solutions to Trafficking in Global Supply Chains, Issara Institute
- Mr. Tomas Lares, Executive Director of Florida Abolitionist and Member, Greater Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force
- Ms. Keeli Sorensen, Director of Government Relations and Public Policy, Polaris
* Witness list subject to change
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
Chairman John Thune
Good morning. Thank you all for being here. HyuhToday, we will hear from some remarkable leaders working on the ground to combat human trafficking and help victims.
Human Trafficking is a heinous crime that often hides in plain sight. The coercion that traffickers use to manipulate victims is not just happening overseas; it occurs right here in the United States.
As the National Human Trafficking Hotline details, cases of human trafficking are annually reported in each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C.
It is estimated that human trafficking is a $150 billion-dollar industry globally.
Our hearing today will explore the role of transportation providers, who are fighting the growth of trafficking in the United States, and their ongoing efforts to reduce forced labor in the global economy.
Our witnesses have been asked to testify about the challenges and successful strategies in combatting this horrible crime.
Human trafficking takes on many different forms and the perpetrators use a variety of tools to recruit and control their victims. Victims of human trafficking are often lured with false promises of well-paying jobs, stability, or education. Others are manipulated by people they trust.
Because the ways in which humans are exploited differ greatly, the responses needed to disrupt and eradicate trafficking also differ. Solutions involve cooperation among industry, the government, and NGOs. No single entity can tackle this problem alone.
In the Senate, my colleagues Senators Cornyn, Grassley, and Klobuchar have been working on legislation, including the Abolish Human Trafficking Act of 2017, which increases the scope of training, targets organized perpetrators, and improves the national strategy to combat human trafficking. As a cosponsor of this legislation, I hope to see it move quickly through the Senate.
Our Committee also plays a role in helping to solve this problem. The FAA Extension Act, signed into law last year, included a provision requiring enhanced training for flight attendants to recognize and respond to potential human trafficking victims.
Just this week, Senator Klobuchar and I plan to introduce complementary bills that would create a lifetime ban for Commercial Driver’s License holders convicted of a crime related to human trafficking and improve education and outreach efforts regarding trafficking prevention within the transportation sector. I anticipate that both of these measures will be on the Committee’s next markup agenda.
As we’ll hear from our witnesses today, greater knowledge, understanding, and awareness are essential for any forward movement in combatting this crime.
Ms. Goetsch from Truckers Against Trafficking will discuss her group’s work to educate, equip, and mobilize the trucking industry to combat trafficking as part of their regular jobs.
As consumers, many of us are unaware of potential victims who may come knocking on our door. As Ms. Sorenson from Polaris will testify, these victims can often be found in traveling sales crews, domestic work, and commercial cleaning services, just to name a few.
We also may not realize that forced labor might have been used to harness the seafood we regularly enjoy. Mr. Goswami will testify about the Issara Institute’s efforts to assist those who are trapped at sea and oftentimes working without food or pay. He will discuss Issara’s efforts to work with corporate partners who want to ensure their supply chain, not only for seafood but for all of the goods they sell, is free from forced labor.
There is also some significant work being done on the ground in my home state of South Dakota. Organizations such as Call to Freedom and Pathfinder are working to identify gaps in services for human trafficking victims and provide housing and support for victims to regain their lives and independence.
Other organizations in my state, such as Native Hope, are on the ground working to educate and expand awareness during large events in South Dakota. They are also working with state and tribal law enforcement to assist vulnerable communities often targeted for trafficking. I commend the efforts of these organizations and their leaders.
I am encouraged by the partnerships and innovative solutions that our witnesses will highlight today.
Thank you all for being here and for the advocacy and work you are engaged in. I will now turn to Ranking Member Nelson for his opening statement.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for calling this hearing.
Human trafficking is a horrific crime.
It is a widespread problem that requires us to put all solutions on the table.
Today, we will look at how transportation, technology and the supply chain can help prevent and respond to incidents of human trafficking.
In Florida, we unfortunately know the consequences of human trafficking all too well.
According to the human trafficking hotline, Florida ranks third in the country for the number of cases reported in 2016.
The Florida Department of Children and Families also said Florida received more than 1,800 reports alleging human trafficking.
That’s a 54 percent increase over the year before.
These statistics are shocking.
But the stories of victims are even worse.
Especially when we look at the fact that many victims of trafficking are women and children.
Minors may be targeted because they have run away from home or have substance abuse problems.
The traffickers promise these kids all kinds of things – money, clothes, drugs, housing – and they have no idea the price they will have to pay.
Since the traffickers prey on the desperate and the vulnerable and they seek out places where people won’t notice, it can be very difficult to intervene.
Help can sometimes come from unusual places.
I’ll give you an example.
A Florida truck driver was traveling through Virginia two years ago.
At a gas station, he saw an old RV that stuck out and noticed suspicious behavior that made him concerned for a minor female in the RV.
He immediately called the police.
Later he learned that the woman he spotted was a trafficking victim.
She had been coerced from Iowa, held against her will, and subjected to torture and sexual assault.
His quick thinking and attention to suspicious behavior saved her life.
Groups like Truckers Against Trafficking train truck drivers to spot signs of trafficking and report these concerns to the human trafficking hotline.
Last Congress, the FAA bill included a provision, which Senator Klobuchar championed, to require that all flight attendants receive training on how to recognize and respond to potential human trafficking.
This Congress, I joined Chairman Thune and Senator Klobuchar on legislation to improve our response to trafficking in the transportation sector by increasing awareness, expanding training, and providing a new penalty to discourage human trafficking.
I thank all of our witnesses for being here today, especially Mr. Lares, who traveled from Florida to speak on the work he does to combat human trafficking in the Orlando area.
Witness Panel 1
Ms. Keeli SorensenDirector of Government Relations and Public PolicyPolaris
Mr. Samir GoswamiTechnical Consultant, Technology Solutions to Trafficking in Global Supply ChainsIssara Institute
Ms. Esther GoetschCoalition Building SpecialistTruckers Against Trafficking
Mr. Tomas LaresExecutive Director of Florida Abolitionist and MemberGreater Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force