Human Trafficking in Pacific Northwest Needs DoJ Assessment (Rep. Bill Sali)

A major issue for the Northwest is human trafficking. Human trafficking is, in short, the modern-day slave trade. It is a practice that victimizes men, women and children for labor and sexual exploitation. According to U.S. government estimates, 800,000 to 900,000 victims are trafficked globally each year and 17,500 to 18,500 are trafficked into the United States.

The northern border is especially vulnerable to this horrific practice. We’ve been told that in 2004, as many as 2,000 people were trafficked through Canada to the United States. But we’ve also been told that those numbers may be lower than what’s really occurring. That’s why I decided to lead a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers asking the U.S. Department of Justice to provide an accounting of human trafficking in the Pacific Northwest. Addressing the issue of human trafficking is critical to recognizing the equality, dignity and worth of every person.

The first thing we need to do is get a handle on what is taking place on the ground. In a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, I’ve asked the government to describe what is being done about human trafficking in the region. My letter was cosigned by Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), David Reichert (D-Wash.), Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.). We consider it our responsibility to be aware of issues within our districts, and so our letter requests a briefing on the topic of human trafficking in the United States, and particularly along the northern border of the U.S.

Human trafficking and human rights issues general are very important to me. In July, I addressed the House of Representatives, advocating for a human trafficking taskforce in the Pacific Northwest. Earlier this year, I asked my staff to participate in community workshops intended to help people recognize the signs of human trafficking so that they can report suspicious activity to law enforcement. As a state legislator in 2006, I voted in favor of Idaho’s current law against human trafficking. This is an issue I’m going to continue to address and monitor in the months to come.

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