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Saturday, February 4th, 2023

House advances bill to crack down on human trafficking through financial system

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The U.S. House of Representatives advanced legislation on Tuesday that would help financial institutions and law enforcers identify human traffickers using the financial system.

The End Banking for Human Traffickers Act, H.R. 2219, would add the secretary of the treasury to the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking. The task force would also make recommendations to Congress to improve anti-money laundering programs related to human trafficking.

U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced the bill in April 2017. In an address on the House floor, Royce said human trafficking is “modern day slavery” and devastates tens of millions of lives around the world.

“These are not just faraway crimes, but also occur in the United States, even in the communities I represent,” Royce said. “I think of the survivors I have met in Southern California, like Angela Guanzon – locked into her abusive workplace, sleeping on the hallway floor. Survivors have taught me that the horror of trafficking lies not in statistics, but in stolen lives.”

Royce said human trafficking crimes persist because they are profitable. The International Labor Organization estimates that human trafficking generates more than $150 billion in profits each year.

Under H.R. 2219, the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council would be directed to review and improve anti-money laundering programs related to human trafficking, as well as policies for referring suspected cases to law enforcement agencies.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of State would be directed to report on efforts to eliminate money laundering related to human trafficking and to report to Congress on the number of investigations, indictments, and convictions.

“Traffickers are laundering their money through financial intuitions they can access with the click of a keyboard,” Royce said. “Cutting off their access to the banking system is critical to putting an end to these illegal operations, once and for all.”