Murkowski: “Sex Trafficking is 21st Century Slavery,” Must Be Abolished

Senator Votes for Bipartisan Bill Supported by Over 100 Human Rights Groups

Senator Lisa Murkowski today cast her vote for the bipartisan Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act that would enhance protections for victims of sexual trafficking.  The bill – which passed 99-0 – contains provisions that will crack down equally on both buyers and sellers of prostitution, as well as allocate criminal fines and penalties towards victim rehabilitation programs to restore the lives of those caught in the middle.

“In Alaska, the sex trafficking trade leaves seen and unseen scars on those involved for years – even vulnerable children victimized by predators who see them as commodities to be bought and sold,” said Senator Murkowski.  “Sex trafficking is 21st century slavery and has no place in this day and time. Where we can get tougher on those involved and more caring to those ensnared in its web, we must find ways to do so.”

Murkowski was also proud to co-sponsor and cast her vote in favor of Senator Dan Sullivan’s amendment that would – in light of the Ted Stevens investigation and the potential that a DOJ deal was made with Bill Allen for his testimony – permit states to pursue criminal charges against individuals accused Mann Act violations if the Department of Justice declines to do so. The Mann Act punishes sex traffickers who transport minors across state lines for prostitution.

Facts from the Alaska Department of Law

  • According to the FBI, 30 percent of sex trafficking victims in Alaska were Alaska Natives.
  • Sex trafficking is a near-term crime problem, but also a psychological and societal issue as the victims continue to cope with the experience in unhealthy or illegal ways for years afterwards.

The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act was introduced by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) Mark Kirk (R-IL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) and will:

  • Create a deficit-neutral “Domestic Trafficking Victims’ Fund,” financed through fines on related crimes, which the Attorney General can use to enhance support programs for victims of human trafficking and child pornography. This fund is deficit neutral and will increase federal resources available for domestic human trafficking victim support by up to $30 million.
  • Create a new grant program to help states and local governments develop victim-centered programs to rescue victims, prosecute human traffickers, and restore the lives of victims. This grant program will be funded entirely through the “Domestic Trafficking Victims’ Fund” created by the bill. 
  • Prioritize victim restoration and witness assistance for trafficking survivors by directing the proceeds of forfeited criminal assets to pay victim restitution orders and fund financial awards for witnesses who come forward and assist law enforcement.
  • Protect victims and witnesses by requiring human traffickers to be treated as violent criminals for purposes of pre-trial release and detention pending judicial proceedings. 
  • Reduce demand for human trafficking by clarifying current law encouraging law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, and juries to target and punish the buyers and sellers of trafficking victims the same as all other human traffickers.