By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Two amendments that would affect tribal governments throughout Indian Country have been offered to the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (S.178). Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) have submitted amendments to include tribes in the bill. In all, 48 amendments have been offered to the bill to date. Sen. Barrasso serves as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
“Human trafficking is widespread in Indian Country, and we have to do everything we can to stop it,” said Sen. Barrasso who said his amendment “provides tribes the opportunity to access funding for programs and trainings to combat human trafficking in Indian Country”.
“This amendment delivers help to trafficking survivors and gives tribes the resources they need to battle human trafficking in their own backyards.”
Sen. Thune commented on his amendment, “This bill will help victims of trafficking get the aid and resources they need to restore their lives and help bring traffickers to justice. My amendment would allow tribes and local governments to receive support to combat trafficking and care for Native American children who are victims of human trafficking.”
He said in a statement that the amendment “would add an additional preference for plans submitted under the block grant by an Indian tribe, state, or local government that would reduce the occurrence of trafficking Native American children or provide support services to Indian children who are victims of human trafficking. The amendment would also allow the attorney general to waive the cost sharing requirement for grants awarded to Indian tribes.”
Bill S.178 was introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) in January. According to the bill summary on Congress.gov, “The bill imposes an additional penalty of $5,000 on any non-indigent person or entity convicted of a crime involving: (1) peonage, slavery, or trafficking in persons; (2) sexual abuse; (3) sexual exploitation and other abuse of children; (4) transportation for illegal sexual activity; or (5) human smuggling…”
The bill also authorizes the Department of Justice to give block grants for human trafficking deterrence programs, expands the definition of “child abuse” to include trafficking and production of child pornography, increases compensation to victims, and requires DOJ to prepare an annual report on enforcement of trafficking.
“The untold stories of thousands of Americans, including many Native American children, who are sold into modern-day slavery are absolutely bone-chilling, and are undeniably some of the most deplorable acts of human kind,” said Sen. Thune.
The bill is currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee.