Leahy Urges Senators To Support All Trafficking Survivors

WASHINGTON (Wednesday, April 22, 2015) – In a floor speech Wednesday, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) called on lawmakers to listen to trafficking survivors and victims’ advocates  who believe that prevention is the most effective method to combat the scourge of human trafficking.

While Leahy said he would support the bipartisan compromise to overcome an impasse on trafficking legislation, he urged Senators to work together to protect the most vulnerable children from falling victim to trafficking in the first place.

“Congress has a long history of passing legislation to address human trafficking and we have consistently done so without abortion politics being injected into the discussion,” Leahy said. “We should do so again today by supporting a broader and smarter approach.  Prevention is the missing piece that should be in the bill before us to help trafficking victims.  If we are serious about listening to survivors and responding to their needs – if we are serious about preventing human trafficking, and protecting vulnerable children in the first place – we should pass legislation like my Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act.”

Leahy sought earlier Wednesday to pass that prevention legislation as part of a broader substitute amendment to the pending trafficking bill. Leahy’s substitute included three bipartisan anti-trafficking bills that recently moved through the Judiciary Committee: the Cornyn-Klobuchar Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, as reported from the Senate Judiciary Committee, without the Hyde Amendment language limiting victims’ services; the Klobuchar-Cornyn Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act; and the Leahy-Collins-Murkowski-Ayotte Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act.  Despite strong support from anti-trafficking groups and all Senate Democrats, Republicans voted against the Leahy substitute. The Senate will vote later Wednesday afternoon on Leahy’s bipartisan amendment to reauthorize the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act.

A critical piece of Leahy’s substitute was non-discrimination language that would ensure homeless LGBT kids are not turned away from shelters or denied services.  Similar non-discrimination language was included in the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act that the Senate overwhelmingly supported and the President signed into law last Congress.

While Leahy encouraged the Senate to support all victims, he praised Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) for brokering an agreement to overcome an impasse on legislation that Republicans loaded with partisan language to limit the health choices of women. Leahy said he would support the agreement reached by Murray, and continue fighting for all victims of human trafficking. 

“A compromise has finally been reached. It is not perfect, but I am heartened that the agreement provides dedicated funds that will support the health care needs of trafficking survivors,” Leahy said.  “I will support this compromise, but not because I believe it is the best solution.  I will vote aye because the survivors who have lost so much already and deserve our support on their own terms have told me that they can live with this compromise.”


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