Fighting Against Human Trafficking
Human trafficking is often portrayed as an international blight, but the sad reality is that this is a problem that hits right at home as well. The Department of Justice estimates that at least 200,000 American children are at risk for trafficking into the sex industry. FBI reports show that nationally, as many as 2.8 million children run away from their homes each year and are exposed to prostitution and pornography. Last year alone, the Miami Dade State Attorney’s office opened 356 new human trafficking cases. Unfortunately, as the gateway to the Americas and a community heavily dependent on tourism and agriculture, South Florida is one of the locations most affected by human trafficking in the country. Every day, innocent people in South Florida are sold, bought, smuggled and forced to engage in prostitution, enduring physical and psychological abuse.
However, despite the discouraging statistics, I am heartened by the number of organizations and individuals working to rescue victims and eradicate this horror from our community. We are blessed in South Florida to have dedicated law enforcement officers who are committed to a “zero tolerance” campaign against human trafficking in order to protect victims and prosecute traffickers. The Miami Dade Police Department operates the Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 where individuals can call to report any suspected cases of human trafficking. Furthermore, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, under the leadership of Kathy Fernandez Rundle, runs and operates a Human Trafficking Unit, which includes prosecutors, investigators and victim specialists working to help heal victims and successfully prosecute their abusers.
The reality is that in addition to efforts by local, state and fed agencies as well as our law enforcement officers, help from individuals in our communities are of great help in combatting this horrendous crime. I am proud that private citizens are joining the fight through local organizations such as the Life of Freedom Center, a dedicated community resource offering free support and healing programs for survivors of sexual exploitation and human trafficking. From spreading awareness about the dangers of sex trafficking, to programs aimed at helping survivors live a life of freedom from further abuse and exploitation, Life of Freedom Center is empowering everyday citizens to combat this crime. The Kristi House is another private, non-profit organization in Miami dedicated to healing and eradicating child sexual abuse. The Kristi House provides treatment, advocacy, and coordination of services in a healing environment for all child victims of sexual abuse and their families in order to end the epidemic of child sexual abuse in Miami-Dade County and break the cycle of abuse for future generations.
As your Representative in Congress, I am committed to this fight. I will continue my efforts to help every man, woman, and child whose life has been impacted by this tragedy and ensure that everyone in South Florida can live free of the fear of falling victim to modern day slavery. I have worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to address the horrors of human trafficking at home and abroad, and to strengthen protections and assistance for trafficking victims. From the Human Trafficking Prevention, Intervention, and Recovery Act, which allows existing Department of Justice grants to be used for emergency housing for trafficking victims, to the Strengthening Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act that would ensure that every state has appropriately trained welfare workers to identify victims, these bills help empower law enforcement, increase public awareness, punish traffickers, and provide essential resources for victims. I remain committed to engage with public and private actors to advocate for victims and raise awareness on human trafficking.
Human trafficking is an immoral, reprehensible, and downright criminal act that we must work to end. Today, too many people in South Florida and around the nation fall prey to unscrupulous criminals and traffickers. But with our combined efforts, we can defeat this horrific human rights abuse. As your voice in Congress, I will continue working to raise awareness to this blight and to advance legislative efforts that will help victims and punish their captors. I will continue working tirelessly so that the next generation can grow up free of the fear of being bought, sold or smuggled. A future free of human trafficking is out there and I believe that together, we can make it a reality.