By Emmarie Huetteman
May 20, 2015
The House overwhelmingly approved the Senate’s much debated human trafficking bill on Tuesday, sending legislation that stalled in the Senate for six weeks to President Obama’s desk with little fanfare.
Approved in a 420-to-3 vote, the bill — intended to increase penalties for perpetrators and support for victims — moved quickly through the House under a procedure that prevents amendments from being added on the floor.
What went largely unnoticed is that some advocates think the legislation falls short, failing to address the roots of trafficking.
Sarah Jakiel, the chief programs officer at Polaris Project, which advocates for trafficking victims, said it was important to help homeless young people, who are more susceptible to being trafficked, especially those who are gay, bisexual or transgender.
“Successful efforts to combat modern slavery must address the root causes that make people vulnerable in the first place,” Ms. Jakiel said in a statement Wednesday. “Until critical funding is reauthorized through the Runaway and Homeless Youth Trafficking Prevention Act to support critical services, such as shelter beds for homeless kids, this population will face increased risk.”
That bill, which provides outreach, housing and other services, expired in 2013 and did not get the 60 votes it needed in the Senate to pass as an amendment to the trafficking bill. Senator Susan Collins, the Maine Republican who introduced the reauthorization measure along with Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, and has been one of the issue’s most devoted champions, has vowed to find a way to pass it.
Moving past the disagreement over a provision that would block money in a victims’ fund from being used to pay for abortions, the Senate passed the bill, 99 to 0, in April after party leaders agreed to split the fund. Though money for health care would be subject to an existing ban on using federal money to pay for abortions, many victims would be able to obtain abortions in cases of rape.