By MARTHA ROBY, Congressman for Alabama’s 2nd District
In the spirit of welcoming a new year, I have recently spent time reflecting upon the many positive developments we experienced in our district, state, and country in 2018. Unemployment is historically low, our economy is booming, and hardworking Americans are getting to keep more of the money they earn thanks to our tax reform overhaul.
2018 brought many accomplishments that we should absolutely celebrate, but last year also included a devastating statistic that we cannot ignore: In the United States, more than 8,500 human trafficking cases were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline (NHTH) in the last 12 months alone. According to the NHTH, for the first half of 2018, there were 36 human trafficking cases reported in Alabama. There are nearly 25 million victims of human trafficking worldwide, and until this number is zero, we have work to do.
This problem is out of control, and I am glad to report that President Trump has designated the month of January 2019 as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. In recent weeks, he has signed into law four bills that demonstrate our commitment to ending human trafficking and bringing these criminals to justice. Most recently, the President signed S. 1862, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which tightens criteria for whether countries are meeting standards for eliminating trafficking.
Last month, President Trump signed into law the Abolish Human Trafficking Act, which strengthens programs supporting survivors and increases resources for combatting this modern-day form of slavery. Here in Alabama, there are several organizations that provide shelter, transitional housing, and other services to individuals who have been trafficked. You can visit www.enditalabama.org/resources to learn more about these critical resources available to survivors in our state.
The President also recently signed the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act. This legislation authorizes $430 million to fight sex and labor trafficking.
Finally, President Trump signed into law S. 1312, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, to establish new prevention, prosecution, and collaboration initiatives to bring human traffickers to justice swiftly. It is imperative that we hold these criminals responsible for their heinous crimes, and I am proud of this measure to do so.
Human trafficking is plaguing our country, but the underground nature of the problem often makes it difficult for authorities to estimate the full scale of its impact. Still, it happens in our communities every single day in plain sight, and it is our responsibility to tackle the issue head-on. It is especially important that we act quickly when we see these crimes occur. If at any point you have information or believe you see something questionable, immediately call the Alabama State Bureau of Investigation at 334-242-1142, or file a report online at https://app.alea.gov/SAR. The National Human Trafficking Hotline can be reached by calling 1-888-373-7888.
It’s hard to grasp the severity of a problem that often goes unseen, and it is especially difficult to combat it. That’s why I am very grateful that Congress and the Trump Administration are working together to make real strides towards addressing this crisis. We must continue to make it crystal clear that this horrendous form of modern-day slavery has no place in the United States and that we are committed to fighting it every step of the way.
Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.