FIRST ON FOX: Sens. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, will introduce legislation on Tuesday that would mandate the Biden administration adopt a more robust response to child trafficking.
The bill – called the Preventing Child Trafficking Act of 2024 – comes after a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report earlier this month found agencies within the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Health and Human Services (HHS) address human trafficking broadly, but lack collaboration to specifically target child trafficking. The report noted that improving efforts between the two departments would “enable the offices to overcome challenges specific to children and meet the distinct needs of child trafficking survivors.”
If passed, the bill sets a timeline for the implementation of GAO’s anti-trafficking recommendations, requiring the Office for Victims of Crime to coordinate with the Office on Trafficking in Persons of the Administration for Children and Families within 180 days of its passage.
Additionally, a report detailing the steps taken in the implementation process must be submitted to the Senate and House Committees on the Judiciary within 60 days of completion.
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Sens. Jon Ossoff and Chuck Grassley (Getty Images)
“Child trafficking in Georgia and nationwide is a crisis. That’s why I’m introducing this bipartisan bill to strengthen federal protections for vulnerable children and increase support for victims of trafficking,” Ossoff said in a statement.
Georgia has reportedly been identified as a human trafficking hotspot due to factors like a major international airport, extensive highway access, and numerous large sporting events, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Federal law defines child trafficking as “the recruiting, enticing, harboring, transporting, providing, obtaining, advertising, maintaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person under 18 years of age, knowing or recklessly disregarding that the minor will be caused to engage in a commercial sex act or benefitting, financially or by receiving anything of value, from participation in a venture engaged in any of these acts.”
Federal prosecutions of child-only sex trafficking cases rose by 17% from 2019 to 2020, a DOJ report to Congress last year found. In 2020, children constituted 69% of victims in all new sex trafficking cases. Among federal sex trafficking cases prosecuted that year, over half of the victims were children, aged 4 to 17, with an average age of 15. Notably, 89% of child victims in active sex trafficking cases were between 14 and 17 years old.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, the U.S. is both a “source and transit country” and is classified as one of the largest destination points for child trafficking in all 50 states.
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The U.S. is classified as one of the largest destination points for child trafficking in all 50 states. (Griff Jenkins/Fox News)
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Efforts by lawmakers to crack down on trafficking efforts have increased in recent years. In December, Ossoff’s bipartisan Report Act to protect children from online sexual abuse, cleared the Senate.
In September, Ossoff and Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., sent an inquiry to Attorney General Merrick Garland relating to the FBI’s capacity to address crimes related to child sexual abuse and exploitation.