The Sun Sentinel
By William E. Gibson
The House approved a bill on Tuesday to curb human trafficking, a significant source of crime and exploitation in South Florida.
The bill contains three provisions promoted by South Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz to aid rape victims.
The long-awaited legislation is especially significant for South Florida, one of the world’s busiest transit points and a major hub for human trafficking.
The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which passed 420 to 3, expands law enforcement tools and creates a fund to help victims. The Senate passed the bill last month, and President Barack Obama is expected to sign it into law.
“This bipartisan legislation sends the message that we are wholeheartedly dedicated to eradicating these evil crimes by punishing those who commit or facilitate them and, most importantly, caring for survivors,” said Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston.
Included in the bill are:
--The HERO Act, which authorizes training for wounded military veterans to help law enforcement agencies investigate child exploitation. This provision helps pay for the HERO Corps, an elite group of cyber warriors. Three from South Florida are among 23 veterans in the current class of trainees.
“I’m looking forward to putting a hurt on the bad guys,” said Steve Lumbert of Miami, one of the trainees, who spent 30 years in the Army, including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
--The Rape Survivor Child Custody Act, which encourages states to allow a woman to terminate the parental rights of a rapist. Wasserman Schultz cited studies estimating that 25,000 to 32,000 rape-related pregnancies occur annually in the United States. She said 20 states and DC have no statute allowing mothers to restrict or terminate parental rights of men who father a child through rape.
--The Trafficking Awareness Training for Health Care Act. Wasserman Schultz said 28 percent of trafficked women saw a healthcare professional while being held captive. This provision provides training for providers to identify and assist victims.
“Our sons and daughters deserve to live in a world where they cannot be sold as property or manipulated by abusers,” she said. “As a member of Congress and as a mother, I will continue to work on building this world.”