03.11.15

Leahy Urges Senators To Support Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act

WASHINGTON (Wednesday, March 11, 2015) –The Senate is currently considering legislation to combat human trafficking, but the pending bill does not include prevention methods to stop trafficking in the first place. Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) on Wednesday sought to improve the bill by filing as an amendment their legislation to prevent runaway and homeless youth from falling victim to human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

 

The Leahy-Collins Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act supports grant programs that provide runaway and homeless youth with housing and counseling services. These precautions are critical because, as more than 270 organizations wrote in a letter to the Judiciary Committee, “School-age children not living with their parents are at the greatest risk for coerced labor exploitation, domestic servitude, or commercial sexual exploitation.”

 

In a floor statement Wednesday, Leahy also highlighted the need for the Senate to support children who too often are prey to traffickers.

 

“These children need our help.  In the fight against human trafficking, we cannot simply focus on ending demand and arrest our way out of this problem; we must eliminate the conditions that make these children so vulnerable,” Leahy said.

The amendment also includes a provision that prohibits grantees from denying services based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This language is modeled after non-discrimination language included in the Leahy-Crapo Violence Against Women Act, which was enacted in 2013 and had the support of 78 Senators from both parties.

 

Appearing before the Judiciary Committee at a hearing on trafficking last month, Jayne Bigelsen, who leads the anti-trafficking initiative at Covenant House in New York, told Senators that “we believe LGBTQ youth are at even higher risk for trafficking.” A growing number of homeless youth identify as LGBT, and it is estimated that they comprise up to 40 percent of the runaway & homeless youth population. In an op-ed in The Hill today, recording artist and co-founder of the True Colors Fund Cyndi Lauper wrote: “Programs and services receiving federal funding must be inclusive of all youth.”

 

Leahy urged Senators to support efforts to help all victims—as so many did on VAWA—by supporting his bipartisan trafficking bill.

 

“We must ensure that these particularly vulnerable children, who have already been rejected once, do not face rejection again. That is why Senator Collins and I included a non-discrimination provision in our amendment that will make clear that any program accepting federal dollars must help care for all of these children,” Leahy said. “If these protections are acceptable for adult victims of domestic and sexual violence, why not these kids? No one should be discriminated against – but especially not these vulnerable children who have already faced more adversity than many of us will ever know.”

A copy of the Leahy-Collins amendment is available online

 

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