The leaders of Florida’s Congressional Delegation filed a bill to combat human trafficking.
U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan and Alcee Hastings filed the bipartisan legislation as reports of trafficking rise in Florida.
“Human trafficking is a vile and monstrous crime against women and children,” said Buchanan, a Sarasota Republican.
“While awareness about human trafficking and exploitation has increased, prevention efforts are lacking,” Hastings, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, added.
The Florida Department of Health reports Florida ranks third in the nation as a destination for human trafficking. Half of victims are under the age of 18.
“Educating students and teachers about the warning signs is critical to addressing the problem,” Buchanan said.
The Human Trafficking and Exploitation Prevention Training Act would create a federal office to address the crisis. The legislation would authorize $75 million in funding over five years.
Should the bill become law, the Office of Trafficking in Persons would be created and track data on human trafficking survivors and exploited children.
Buchanan worked with Selah Freedom Foundation, which is based in his district, on the legislation.
“Education is key to recognizing the signs of human trafficking and exploitation,” said Selah Freedom founder Elizabeth Melendez Fisher Good.
“The implementation of curricula for training educators, school personnel and students will surely be a giant leap in helping to eradicate this horrific abuse in America.”
The bulk of instances where children get trafficked involve prostitution and sexual exploitation, but human trafficking also fuels black markets for organ harvesting. Forced labor also often relied on human trafficking.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline reports the number of cases of trafficking last year jumped 25 percent.
“To protect our children, it is imperative that we educate students, teachers, and school personnel to recognize the dangers of trafficking and exploitation,” Hastings said, “not just to protect children from traffickers, but also to prevent potential traffickers and abusers from exploiting others in the future.”
Hastings and Buchanan in 2017 held a special Delegation meeting to address the impact of human trafficking on Florida.