Senators Chuck Grassley and Jon Ossoff are joining forces to combat child trafficking and enhance federal protections for vulnerable children with the introduction of the Preventing Child Trafficking Act of 2024. This bipartisan effort comes in response to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, which emphasized the crucial need for improved collaboration between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Health and Human Services (HHS) in addressing child trafficking.
The proposed bill, if passed, will require the Biden administration to implement the GAO’s anti-trafficking recommendations within a specified timeframe. It mandates coordination between the Office for Victims of Crime and the Office on Trafficking in Persons of the Administration for Children and Families within 180 days of the bill’s passage. Additionally, the bill calls for a comprehensive report on the implementation process to be submitted to the Senate and House Committees on the Judiciary within 60 days.
Child trafficking is a pressing concern both in Georgia and across the nation. Georgia, in particular, has been identified as a hotspot for human trafficking due to factors such as its extensive highway access, major international airport, and hosting of significant sporting events, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. This legislation aims to strengthen federal protections for vulnerable children and provide increased support for trafficking victims.
Federal legislation defines child trafficking to include a range of actions, such as recruiting, providing shelter, transporting, and seeking out minors under 18 for commercial sexual activities. A Department of Justice report recently presented to Congress indicated a 17 percent rise in federal legal actions specifically against child sex trafficking from 2019 to 2020.
In a troubling revelation for 2020, children made up 69 percent of all the identified victims in newly initiated sex trafficking cases. Moreover, more than half of these victims were between the ages of 4 and 17, with the average age being 15. Particularly distressing is that 89 percent of the child victims involved in ongoing cases of sex trafficking were aged between 14 and 17.
The United Nations Children’s Fund has identified the United States as both a country from which child trafficking occurs and a significant destination for such activities across all 50 states. Recognizing the urgency of the trafficking issue, there has been an increase in initiatives to combat child trafficking, with legislative efforts such as Ossoff’s bipartisan Report Act aiming to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation on the internet.
In September, Senators Marsha Blackburn and Jon Ossoff initiated a formal inquiry to Attorney General Merrick Garland regarding the FBI’s effectiveness in addressing child sexual abuse and exploitation crimes. The subsequent introduction of the Preventing Child Trafficking Act of 2024 represents additional efforts to strengthen federal actions against child trafficking.