Racine Journal Times: Commentary by U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil: Exposing the financing of human trafficking

June 24, 2019
Column

Since day one, I’ve said I would work with anyone to get results for Southeast Wisconsin and the American people. Five months into my first term in office, that motive hasn’t changed.

If you look past the partisan headlines, cable television, and social media, productive and meaningful work is happening in Congress.

Human trafficking is an issue that transcends politics. It’s also not just a faraway crime, this is an issue that impacts every neighborhood, every state, and every country. Right here in Racine County, law enforcement officials are working day in and day out to combat this epidemic.

Human trafficking has been reported in every Wisconsin county. Victims of human trafficking are girls, boys, men, and women of all nationalities, ages, and backgrounds.

This crisis requires support from Republicans and Democrats, from every corner of our country.

That’s why I teamed up with Representative Madeleine Dean, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, to combat human trafficking. I’ve introduced the Exposing the Financing of Human Trafficking Act. Along with Rep. Dean, we have 31 cosponsors, Republicans and Democrats from across the nation, who’ve joined our efforts.

Rep. Dean and I sit on the Financial Services Committee. We see firsthand how human traffickers and other criminals abuse the financial system to further their illegal activities. We understand that American financial institutions play an important role in preventing illicit finance. The United States requires institutions to partner with regulators and law enforcement to report suspicious activity. Countries that receive U.S. foreign aid must be held to similarly high standards.

While our bill may be a simple change, it will have a global impact on how countries combat human trafficking.

With the advancements in technology, traffickers have even greater access to financial services and other resources to commit these crimes.

Right now, countries that receive U.S. aid have no responsibility to report their efforts to prevent money laundering from human trafficking. This bill holds countries accountable.

My bill will not only strengthen our efforts to combat human traffickers’ use of our domestic financial system, it will also encourage other countries to cut off traffickers from the global financial system.

Following the money will give countries the ability to see where these crimes begin and where they’re going. Over 500,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year. More than 14,000 women, children, and men are trafficked into the United States.

Fighting human trafficking requires a multifaceted approach. That’s why awareness campaigns, school counselors and teachers, and law enforcement are a vital part of this effort. Local, state, federal, and international partners must work together to take this crisis head-on.

This legislation is just one piece of the puzzle to combat human trafficking. Our work isn’t done. As we continue gaining support for our bill, I will work with my colleagues and our community to build upon these efforts.