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Roby: We can all help fight human trafficking

The state of Alabama reached several significant milestones and experienced many successes in 2019. We commemorated the 200th anniversary of Alabama’s statehood, saw a record low unemployment rate and witnessed new economic growth and development taking place across the state.

When there are so many positives to celebrate, it can be simple to overlook the unwanted storylines hiding in the shadows. While it was a year full of monumental moments and exciting celebration in Alabama, there are still serious issues across the state and country that are desperate for our intention: one major problem being human trafficking.

The White House recently issued a Presidential Proclamation declaring January 2020 as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. This proclamation also highlights the 20-year anniversary of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA). With the enactment of TVPA, the United States took significant steps in the fight against human trafficking and related offenses by making them a federal crime attached with severe penalties. I have pushed efforts, along with my colleagues in Congress, and working with the Administration to prevent human trafficking by passing and signing several pieces of legislation into law, including the Abolish Human Trafficking Act, the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act and Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Rest assured that we will continue our best efforts in this fight as 2020 progresses.

Human trafficking, unfortunately, affects millions across the world. Many times, unseen problems are the most dangerous of them all. It may seem easy to write off human trafficking as an action that only takes place in Third World countries, but it happens in our very own Alabama communities and around the United States every single day. Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar criminal enterprise and one of the fastest-growing illegal industries in the world, and it is growing at an extremely alarming rate. The International Labour Organization estimates that there are nearly 25 million victims worldwide. The underground nature and secrecy of these operations make it difficult for authorities to accurately estimate the total number of victims across the United States. Until we beat this horrific problem altogether, there is much work to be done.

Human trafficking can take many forms, and it is hard to know the full scale of its impact. Even though it is a larger issue that is faced no matter the country you live in, there are ways in which we can take responsibility to tackle trafficking head-on. It is crucial to be aware of what is going on around you in your community. If at any point you have information on a potential trafficking case or believe you have witnessed something questionable, act fast and immediately contact the Alabama State Bureau of Investigation at (334) 242-1142 or visit their website to file a report at https://www.alea.gov/sbi. Hotlines and helplines are also critical components of human trafficking prevention, and they can be powerful tools. You can contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline by calling 1 (888) 373-7888 or texting 233733.

Even if you are unsure of your suspicions, it is always best to contact someone about what you may have seen. Your efforts can help raise awareness and even potentially save lives. Let’s all do the absolute best we can to look out for one another in our communities. We must continue to make it evident that this terrible form of modern-day slavery has no place in our country and that we will remain committed to fighting it every step of the way.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.

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