Legislation Would Also Ensure Wellbeing of DHS Employees Working to Investigate Human Trafficking Crimes and Support Victims
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced a bipartisan bill to enhance the Department of Homeland Security’s ability combat human trafficking. The legislation would make permanent and expand Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Victim Assistance Program that helps provide support to individuals impacted by human trafficking. The bill would also make permanent an existing program that ensures the wellbeing of HSI employees and partners who are exposed to repeated stress and associated trauma through their work to support victims and investigate these horrific crimes.
“Human trafficking not only leaves deep, traumatic scars on its victims, but also on dedicated professionals who are charged with investigating these crimes and helping people recover from them,” said Senator Peters. “This bipartisan legislation will help provide a path to recovery and stability for victims of human trafficking. It will also ensure that Homeland Security Investigations agents, victim assistance specialists, and others who work with victims have the support they need to continue fighting back against human traffickers.”
Thousands of men, women, and children are trafficked in the United States. According to DHS, traffickers might use violence, manipulation, or false promises of jobs or romantic relationships to lure victims into trafficking situations. Based on calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, the Polaris Project found that in 2019 there were at least 14,597 sex trafficking victims and survivors in the United States. However, the actual number of these crimes may be much larger because these crimes often go unreported. Peters’ legislation will provide increased resources and support to these victims, as well as HSI employees and partners who work to bring them recovery, stabilization, and justice.
The IMPACTT Human Trafficking Act would make permanent the Investigators Maintain Purposeful Awareness to Combat Trafficking Trauma (IMPACTT) program within HSI that provides outreach and training to investigators, forensic interviewers, victim assistance specialists, task force officers, and other partners who have been exposed to trauma while working with victims of human trafficking. The legislation would require HSI to provide training, through the program, to these employees on available resources to help cope with burnout, compassion fatigue, and trauma. The bill also makes permanent and expands the HSI Victim Assistance Program that provides guidance on victim assistance, including training and technical assistance, and monitors compliance with federal crime victim statutes. The bill increases the number of Victim Assistant Specialists to ensure every office participating in a human trafficking or child exploitation task force will have an assigned Victim Assistant Specialist. The legislation also ensures that victims are provided with referrals for support services throughout the investigative and prosecutorial process.
Peters’ legislation to increase coordination between Department of Homeland Security components and the Blue Campaign, a national public awareness effort designed to educate law enforcement and the public to recognize human trafficking, was signed into law as a part of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act. His legislation to make permanent and strengthen DHS’ Center for Countering Human Trafficking has passed the Senate.