The next battle in the fight against human trafficking
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Today, more and more American people have become acutely aware of the evils of human trafficking that take place right in their own backyards. 

Over the past two decades the stories of human trafficking have been heard—and they have informed our actions to stop this scourge on society. 


Inspired by brave victims, and armed with the help of organizations like Shared Hope International, we have been chipping away at human trafficking through a combination of focused legislation and the persistent determination of key NGOs.

That began seventeen years ago, when the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) was enacted. We then worked together on the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA), which became law in 2015 and strengthened the foundation of protections for trafficking victims by getting them help they need—not punishing them for crimes committed against them.

Though we’ve won some major battles, we’re fighting a war. Despite years of heightened recognition and new laws, this human slavery persists. Victims still are labeled prostitutes and arrested in conjunction with the crime committed against them; perpetrators still too often walk away with no consequence; and the struggles of victims, including children, still continue long after their exploitation ends.

So together with other key allies, we have crafted a new effort that builds on both pieces of landmark anti-trafficking legislation.

The Abolish Human Trafficking Act is a bill recently introduced and passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, backed by a bipartisan coalition including Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharBiden, Sanders lead field in Iowa poll Gillibrand says she's worried about top options in Dem 2020 poll being white men Biden team discussed 2020 run with O'Rourke as VP: report MORE (D-Minn.), Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyFive takeaways from the court decision striking down ObamaCare The Year Ahead: Tough tests loom for Trump trade agenda Senate heads toward floor fight on criminal justice bill MORE (R-Iowa), Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate Dems urge Trump to continue nuclear arms control negotiations after treaty suspension Senate Intel leaders ask judge not to jail former aide amid leak investigation Dems demand Pompeo brief Congress on whether he discussed Assange with Ecuadorian official MORE (D-Calif.), and Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerThe Hill's 12:30 Report – Cohen says Trump knew payments were wrong | GOP in turmoil over Trump shutdown threat | Kyl to resign from Senate at year's end The Hill's Morning Report — Trump maintains his innocence amid mounting controversies Overnight Defense: Senate bucks Trump with Yemen war vote, resolution calling crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi killing | House briefing on Saudi Arabia fails to move needle | Inhofe casts doubt on Space Force MORE (R-Tenn.). The legislation ensures that both victims and law enforcement will receive life-saving resources to make headway in ending the commercial exploitation of Americans.

The Abolish Human Trafficking Act takes several concrete steps to do that. For law enforcement on the local level, the bill establishes a screening protocol to help identify trafficking victims so that they can quickly get the help and support they need. 

It also sets aside funds for agencies like the Department of Justice to track human traffickers and encourages data sharing among agencies, to put more of these criminals behind bars.

As mentioned earlier, successful legislation requires education and an understanding of what human trafficking looks like in our country. That’s why the Abolish Human Trafficking Act also includes tools to raise awareness. Culture shapes laws, and laws shape culture. The more we know about this crime –one that preys on the vulnerable and exploits one person’s free will for another’s profit—the more we can help.

Today there is a greater awareness of trafficking than ever before, but now is not the time to sit back. Passing the Abolish Human Trafficking Act inspires a community of compassion for victims of human trafficking—and justly punishes those who coerce and torture the innocent.

Cornyn is the Senate majority whip. Smith is president of Shared Hope. She served in Congress from 1995-1999.

The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.