U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) on Feb. 14 introduced the bipartisan Protecting Rights of Those Exploited by Coercive Trafficking (PROTECT) Act of 2018, a measure to address drug use in human trafficking and to better protect human-trafficking victims.
“Living in the greatest country in the world, it’s an unfortunate reality that there are still basic human rights abuses, like human trafficking, that take place in our society,” said Rep. Ratcliffe. “We have an obligation to do everything in our power to address and correct these abuses — an obligation I took seriously as a federal prosecutor and do now as a lawmaker.”
H.R. 5027 would amend current human trafficking law to affirm that using drugs or illegal substances to compel a person into commercial sex acts or forced labor is a form of coercion, according to a summary provided by Rep. Ratcliffe’s office.
U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) joined Ratcliffe in introducing H.R. 5027. In the Senate, a companion bill was introduced, S. 2429, by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC), Rob Portman (R-OH) and John Cornyn (R-TX) were among the original cosponsors of the bill.
Forcing or coercing victims to use drugs enables traffickers to create or advance dependency and controls the victims by keeping them trapped in addiction so that they are dependent on the traffickers for their drug supply, according to Ratcliffe’s office.
“Under this new provision, both traffickers and facilitators of human trafficking are held accountable for causing and or furthering an individual’s addiction for the purpose of forced labor and sex trafficking,” according to the summary.
The legislation also would use a “survivor-informed approach” to prevention, according to a summary released jointly by the senators that would protect trafficking victims from prosecution by acknowledging that any crimes they may have committed often resulted from the situation thrust upon them.