The House on Tuesday passed five bills to boost law enforcement efforts against human trafficking.

Measures to combat human trafficking were already listed as part of the House's spring agenda, but they gained momentum amid reports of the abduction of Nigerian girls by extremist group Boko Haram.

ADVERTISEMENT

Lawmakers said the legislation would help combat human trafficking both abroad and domestically.  

"While this problem may seem thousands of miles away, this horror is inflicted on millions of families every year, including here in the United States," said House Majority Leader Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorEmbattled Juul seeks allies in Washington GOP faces tough battle to become 'party of health care' 737 crisis tests Boeing's clout in Washington MORE (R-Va.).

The human trafficking industry makes about $32 billion annually, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

One measure, H.R. 3530, which passed 409-0, would reauthorize a grant program for state and local governments to train law enforcement, prosecute human traffickers and provide support to victims. The bill would further allow state and local human trafficking task forces to obtain wiretap warrants to investigate human trafficking crimes.

Additionally, it would increase penalties for traffickers who fail to file tax returns. Sex trafficking victims would be allowed to collect up to 15 percent of the fines levied against their abusers.

"Sex trafficking of minor children happens all over the world," said bill sponsor Rep. Ted PoeLloyd (Ted) Theodore PoeSenate Dem to reintroduce bill with new name after 'My Little Pony' confusion Texas New Members 2019 Cook shifts two House GOP seats closer to Dem column MORE (R-Texas)."In the United States, there's not much help for minor sex trafficked victims."

"No children should be for sale in America, and this bill will help give law enforcement the tools to win convictions," said bill co-sponsor Rep. Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn Bosher MaloneyO'Rourke gun confiscation talk alarms Democrats 2017 marked first year firearms killed more people than car accidents: study Report: Americans unprepared for retirement MORE (D-N.Y.).

A second bill, H.R. 3610, passed by voice-vote and would require states to establish laws to discourage prosecuting against minors involved in sex trafficking, instead referring them to child protective services.

Members of both parties said that the victims of sex trafficking — especially minors — should not be treated as criminals.

"There's no such thing as a child prostitute. Children cannot consent to sex," Poe said.

Legislation sponsored by Rep. Ann WagnerAnn Louise WagnerMissouri Republican wins annual craft brewing competition for lawmakers Liberal think tank: GOP paid parental leave proposals are too narrow A true believer in diversity, inclusion MORE (R-Mo.), H.R. 4225, passed 392-19, would make it a federal crime to knowingly sell advertising that offers commercial sex exploitation of trafficking victims.

"There is well established precedent for Congress to criminalize the advertising of illegal goods or services," Wagner said. "Surely the advertisement offering sex with children should also be subject to the same restrictions."

"It's common sense that if they're advertising the selling of a young child, it's sex trafficking," Maloney said. "This is something we can do that will literally save lives."

Free-speech groups including the American Civil Liberties Union raised concerns that the bill would unintentionally impose limitations on companies with vague definitions, however.

Another measure, H.R. 4058, passed by voice-vote, would require states to establish policies to prevent sex trafficking of minors in foster care. Members said that foster children were particularly at risk to become victims of sex trafficking, and needed extra support.

"In order to help these youth from becoming victims, we need better information," Rep. Erik PaulsenErik Philip PaulsenHopes dim for passage of Trump trade deal Fight over Trump's new NAFTA hits key stretch Blue states angry over SALT cap should give fiscal sobriety a try MORE (R-Minn.) said. 

Under a fifth bill, passed by voice-vote, H.R. 4573, advance notice would be required of intended travel by registered American sex offenders to other countries.

It would also allow the secretary of State to restrict travel of people convicted of sex crimes. The bill would further call on the president to negotiate reciprocal agreements with other countries.

"No single law will put an end to sex tourism or child sex trafficking, but every step we take strengthens our ability to prevent these crimes," Rep. Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelHouse chairman reaches deal on classified briefing with Trump's Afghanistan negotiator Overnight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine House chairman subpoenas Trump's Afghanistan negotiator MORE (D-N.Y.) said.