The U.S. Senate advanced with unanimous consent legislation this week that seeks to combat human trafficking and expand support for its victims.
The IMPACTT Human Trafficking Act (S.670) is now under consideration in the U.S. House.
“The federal government must increase support for victims of human trafficking and ensure that Homeland Security Investigations agents and others who work with these victims have the resources they need to effectively do their jobs,” U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) said. “This bipartisan bill will bolster DHS’ ability to stop these horrific crimes and ensure that Department employees are better prepared to fight back against human traffickers.”
Peters authored the bill alongside fellow U.S. Sens. James Lankford (R-OK) and John Cornyn (R-TX). Their bill would provide additional resources and support for trafficking victims and the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) staff and partners working to help them. It would also permanently enshrine the Investigators Maintain Purposeful Awareness to Combat Trafficking Trauma (IMPACTT) program within HSI. That program offers outreach and training for investigators, forensic interviewers, victim assistance specialists, task force officers and other partners facing trauma from their efforts.
“Human trafficking along our southern border is at an all-time high, and the problem is only getting worse,” Lankford said. “Battling cartels, abuse, and trauma, human trafficking survivors have been through enough. It’s critical that survivors — along with the professionals helping them — have access to the resources they need to get the justice and closure they deserve. Our bipartisan bill making that a reality is one step closer to becoming law.”
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimates thousands of men, women and children are trafficked in the United States, using a mix of violence, manipulation or false promises of jobs or romantic relationships. The actual number is likely much higher than known, however, as the crimes often go unreported – whether out of fear of reprisal, stigma or victims punished in pursuit of the actual abusers. Still, in 2020, the Polaris Project determined that there were at least 16,658 sex trafficking victims and survivors in the United States.
If passed, the IMPACTT Human Trafficking Act would require HSI to provide training to employees on the resources available to help them through burnout, compassion fatigue and trauma. The HSI Victim Assistance Program would also be expanded and made permanent to help guide victim assistance and monitor compliance with federal crime victim statutes, while adding to the number of Victim Assistant Specialists to help. Under the bill, all victims would be guaranteed referrals for support services throughout the investigative and prosecutorial process.