Trafficking laws should be strengthened

Published 12:09 am Saturday, February 11, 2017


This past week we celebrated an especially proud moment for the State of Alabama and our country as Jeff Sessions was confirmed and then sworn-in as Attorney General of the United States.

I’ve said it before: Jeff Sessions is a great American who has served his state and nation admirably. There is no one more qualified to serve as attorney general, and I’m proud he was finally confirmed by the Senate.

While it may have gone unnoticed amid all the excitement, Attorney General Sessions’ first official act after being sworn-in was to present President Trump an executive order to strengthen the enforcement of federal law on “transnational criminal organizations” and prevent international trafficking. International trafficking is a broad term that applies to the smuggling of drugs, weapons, and even animals, but it also applies to the serious problem of human trafficking, including sex trafficking.

Many people don’t realize it, but we have a huge problem with sex trafficking in this country. It seems like the selling and purchasing of females for forced prostitution is something that could only happen in third world countries and not in the Untied States, but it happens here every day in plain sight.

This underground nature of this problem makes it difficult for authorities to estimate the total number of trafficking victims in the United States, but a study by the International Labor Organization estimates that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally. Of this number, 55 percent are women and girls who are bought and sold for commercial sex.

As you may know, I recently joined the Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the federal criminal code, immigration, drug enforcement, and homeland security. One of the reasons I was eager to join the committee was to work towards making a difference on the issue of human trafficking. Our laws are meant to protect people. When they aren’t enforced, it opens the door for vulnerable people to be victimized and for our country to be taken advantage of. It won’t be an easy problem to fix, but we can start by cracking down on our immigration policies and tightening security at points of entry, including the southern border.

In 2015, Congress enacted a legislative package aimed to fight the problem by enhancing tools for law enforcement at home and abroad, boosting support for victim services, and raising awareness for this sometimes overlooked problem. That was a step in the right direction, and I’m so pleased that Attorney General Sessions and President Trump are taking action to see that these laws are aggressively enforced.

I believe these laws can be strengthened, and I look forward to doing just that as I work alongside my colleagues on the Judiciary Committee as well as Attorney General Sessions and his team at the Department of Justice.


Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District.