February 24, 2015

A Week After Feds Bust Trafficking Ring In Rochester, Senator Gillibrand Spotlights Problem Of Human Trafficking, Testifies At Senate Judiciary Hearing

Senator Demands Action on Human Trafficking and Addresses Recent Rochester Trafficking Bust

Watch Senator Gillibrand Testify Before the Committee HERE

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand spotlighted the problem of human tracking today as she testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee at a hearing on protecting victims. This hearing was a result of a letter by Senator Gillibrand and all 19 of her women colleagues to the Committee’s Chair and Ranking members, demanding a hearing to address this issue. Earlier this month, Senator Gillibrand introduced a human trafficking resolution which acknowledges that children can’t consent to sex and are therefore victims of rape or sex trafficking. The resolution passed the Senate unanimously on February 12th . Senator Gillibrand is also a co-sponsor of several pieces of human trafficking legislation.

Senator Gillibrand’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below:

“Thank you, Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Leahy, for inviting me to testify today.

 “Human trafficking is a crime that affects thousands of young Americans and their families, and Congress’s focus on this epidemic is long overdue. We have a number of proposed bills that would address the law-and-order side of this issue. These bills would make the people who buy underage victims strictly liable for their crimes and would make penalties for traffickers much harsher.

"But today I want to focus on the other side of human trafficking. I want to focus on the vulnerabilities that lead to these girls and boys becoming trafficked and how vulnerable they remain even after they’ve managed to escape from captivity. In small towns and big cities, thousands of young Americans are trafficked each year. Every single institution these girls and boys ever relied on, failed to protect them. Their families failed to protect them, their schools failed to protect them, the foster system failed to protect them and our laws are failing to protect them.

“Last week, in Rochester, New York, the US Attorney there announced the arrest of seven people on trafficking charges. Their victims were as young as 14 years old. The US Attorney said that “the victims in many cases were singled out because they were identified as being vulnerable.”

“We have a responsibility in Congress to end these crimes against our children. We need better institutions…to protect runaway and homeless youth from stumbling into shelters that will spit them right back out onto the street. We need a law that would vacate the criminal convictions of trafficking victims because these girls and boys are not criminals, and they are not prostitutes. They are victims who deserve a chance to lead a fulfilling life.

“We have to protect these young Americans. I want to close by telling you the story of a young woman named Ashley, who is here today. When Ashley was 12, she ran away from home and lived on the streets. She went into a foster home but a trafficker found her and started selling her. Ashley went out every night, and risked a beating if she didn’t take home at least 500 dollars. When the police finally found her, she was arrested on charges of prostitution and solicitation. She was 13 years old.

“For the next six years, Ashley bounced between sexual predators, who continued to traffic her. She ended up in New York City with a violent pimp. When Ashley was 19, she escaped and was referred by law enforcement to a nonprofit group called FAIR Girls, which provides housing and 24/7 care to young women survivors of sex trafficking. Ashley has a bank account now, and some savings, and she enrolled in a community college and is looking for a job.

“There are thousands of young Americans whose circumstances are just like Ashley’s. So let’s do our job in Congress, and do everything we can to help the victims of human trafficking live fulfilling lives.

“Thank you”

The letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee is attached.