Bipartisan group pushes Holder to 'broaden focus' on sex trafficking

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers is calling on the Department of Justice to go after people who buy children for sex.

In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, the lawmakers praised his agency for a recent sting operation netting hundreds of pimps but lamented that there were no reports of johns being arrested.

"We appreciate the desire to focus on the traffickers, but we cannot ignore the buyers. Without buyers, there would be no market for the traffickers," the lawmakers wrote Wednesday. "Until we target both the traffickers and buyers, who are complicit in child sex trafficking, we are failing to address the root of the problem."

The letter, spearheaded by Reps. Ted PoeLloyd (Ted) Theodore PoeFive races to watch in the Texas runoffs Five Republican run-offs to watch in Texas Hillicon Valley: House Dems release Russia-linked Facebook ads | Bill would block feds from mandating encryption 'back doors' | AT&T hired Cohen for advice on Time Warner merger | FCC hands down record robocall fine | White House launches AI panel MORE (R-Texas) and Rosa DeLauroRosa Luisa DeLauroMembers of Congress demand new federal gender pay audit DNC chair backing plan to cut superdelegates opposed by Dem lawmakers Bipartisan support for medical research is good news for all MORE (D-Conn.), was endorsed by 61 other House lawmakers from both parties, including Reps. Frank WolfFrank Rudolph WolfVulnerable Republican keeps focus as Democrats highlight Trump Bolton could be the first national security chief to prioritize religious freedom House votes to mandate sexual harassment training for members and staff MORE (R-Va.), John LewisJohn LewisTop House Dem: GOP promoting ‘psychological torture’ of kids on border John Lewis: History will not be kind to us if we continue to go down this road Clinton advocates 'sane gun laws' at Robert Kennedy memorial MORE (D-Ga.), Chris SmithChristopher (Chris) Henry SmithWe should allow all taxpayers to deduct charitable contributions AEI: GOP tax law will reduce charitable giving by .2 billion The progressive blue wave is crashing and burning in 2018 MORE (R-N.J.) and Louise SlaughterDorothy (Louise) Louise SlaughterOur democracy demands weekend voting Lawmakers remember Slaughter in Capitol ceremony McGovern tapped to replace Slaughter as top Dem on Rules panel MORE (D-N.Y.).

In June, the FBI announced that a national, weeklong sting operation — dubbed Operation Cross Country 8 — had arrested 281 pimps and rescued 168 minors who were victims of sex trafficking.

"This operation puts traffickers behind bars and rescues kids from their nightmare, so they can start reclaiming their childhood,” Leslie Caldwell, the DOJ's assistant attorney general for the criminal division, said at the time.

But the House lawmakers say that's not enough.

"The FBI and the Department of Justice must broaden their focus from arresting traffickers to also going after buyers," they wrote to Holder. "We urge you to send a strong message to both the buyers and traffickers involved in child sex trafficking that America's children are not for sale."

The lawmakers are pointing to legislation, passed unanimously by the House in May, that aims to reduce the demand for child-sex trafficking by going after the johns. Sponsored by Poe, the proposal would revise the definition of child-sex crimes to encourage more prosecutions, while increasing penalties for those found guilty of the crime.

An identical bill has been introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) in the upper chamber.