WASHINGTON, DC (April 29, 2014) –U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Cindy McCain led a panel discussion on international sex trafficking at the McCain Institute for International Leadership’s annual Sedona Forum in Arizona. The global issues conference is an annual gathering of national and international thought-leaders, decision-makers, business leaders, philanthropists, activists, and experts to discuss approaches and solutions to real-world problems. Earlier this month, Klobuchar, Heitkamp, and McCain met with government and non-profit leaders in Mexico to push for coordinated efforts to combat sex trafficking in Mexico and the United States. Klobuchar and Heitkamp recently introduced bipartisan legislation modeled after Minnesota’s “Safe Harbor” laws which ensure minors sold for sex aren’t prosecuted as defendants but are treated as victims, and Cindy McCain co-chairs the Arizona Governor’s Task Force on Human Trafficking. The Arizona legislature recently passed new anti-trafficking legislation into law that was championed by Cindy McCain.

“The United States needs to be a leader in the fight against human trafficking, which is now the third largest criminal enterprise in the world,” Klobuchar said. “We have an opportunity to work hand in hand with other countries to crack down on this heinous crime and lift the status of women and girls in the United States and across the globe.”

“Human trafficking is on the rise both globally and in our own backyard,” said Heitkamp.“At the Sedona Forum, many participants were shocked about some of the details we provided about the increase in human trafficking in North Dakota and others parts of the U.S. We need to rally together to do everything we can to prevent trafficking – both labor and sex trafficking — and get victims help. Speaking with world leaders this past weekend was an important part of that effort to spread the word.”

“Arizona took a critical step forward in the fight against human trafficking with the passage of HB 2454 last week,” McCain said. “I am proud to have such strong partners at the forefront of efforts to fight the multifaceted horrors of human trafficking. National and international leaders gathered at the McCain Institute’s Sedona Forum were surprised and interested to learn about the depth of the human trafficking problem in the US. Working together we can solve this problem and the discussions at the Sedona forum were another step forward in our fight. Participants were challenged to find ways their companies and organizations can take immediate positive steps against trafficking.”

Klobuchar recently introduced bipartisan legislation, cosponsored by Heitkamp, that would give prosecutors tools to crack down on domestic minor sex trafficking and ensure victims of these horrific crimes receive the support they need. The Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act is modeled after Minnesota’s “Safe Harbor” laws that help ensure minors sold for sex aren’t prosecuted as criminals but are instead treated as victims. The bill also allows victims of sex trafficking to participate in the Job Corps program to help them get back on their feet, and would create a National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking to encourage cooperation among all the federal, state, and local agencies that work on this problem. A full summary of the Senators’ legislation can be found here.

Earlier this month during a delegation to Mexico, Klobuchar, Heikamp, and McCain discussed efforts to fight sex trafficking with the Attorney General of Mexico, sex trafficking prosecutors and NGOS, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, and the Mexican Senate. Klobuchar has also partnered with Cindy McCain to combat sex trafficking at the Super Bowl, which is in Arizona next year. Klobuchar and McCain met with the National Football League (NFL) earlier this year to discuss their efforts.

Last year, Heitkamp helped lead a Senate hearing to better understand the work being done on the federal, state, and local levels to combat human trafficking. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, which Heitkamp asked the Committee hold, brought together officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Justice, and non-profit leaders who are on the frontlines of addressing human trafficking.

Contact:

Brigit Helgen (Klobuchar), 202-224-6317

Abbie McDonough (Heitkamp), 202-224-8898

Meghan Latcovich (Cindy McCain), 571-481-6727