Testifying before a House of Representatives subcommittee yesterday, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) called for a harsher enforcement of laws against domestic trafficking of minors, which he referred to as a current “crisis” in the U.S.
The New Jersey congressman, who serves as co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Human Trafficking, gave his remarks before the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security on Sept. 15.
“Driven by demand and fueled by the ease and secrecy of the internet,” he observed in his opening comments, “we are facing a crisis of child exploitation in this nation.”
The hearing occurred as Congress reviews legislation introduced in June by Rep. Smith and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), titled the Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act of 2010 (H.R. 5575).
A press release from Congressman Smith's office explained that the new bill is a legislative response to the 2009 National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking, America’s Prostituted Children, conducted by Shared Hope International. H.R. 5575 would fund shelter care for victims, as well as assist law enforcement in identifying and rescuing victims.
The legislation would also help to jail perpetrators, require the timely and accurate reporting of missing children, and would promote prevention programs.
According to Rep. Smith, an estimated 100,000 U.S. minors are victimized annually with the average age of initial exploitation between 12-13 years old.
“Tragically, homegrown demand, enabled by the misuse of the internet drives much of the domestic minor sex trafficking in the U.S.,” Congressman Smith noted.
“The internet has opened a whole new front in the war with human trafficking – allowing demand to run free without practical obstacles,” he added. “We must develop more effective safeguards and enforcement of existing laws to ensure that neither obscenity nor child pornography is protected speech, therefore we must stop the criminal misuse of the internet for human trafficking and child pornography.”
“I heartily applaud the hard work and remarkable coordination of state and federal resources to stop domestic minor sex trafficking,” Rep. Smith said. “But there is a huge gap in the numbers we rescue versus the estimated 100,000 victims out there.”