Truckstop and travel center operators this detailed the efforts they are undertaking to help fight human trafficking across the country on Capitol Hill, as Congress seeks to pass legislation that would provide state and federal law enforcement agencies with more “tools” to fight this crime.
In testimony before the House of Representative’s Committee on Homeland Security, Lisa Mullings, president of the NATSO Foundation – formerly known as the National Association of Truck Stop Operators – said truckstops and travel plazas play a “vital role” in combating human trafficking.
Specifically, Mullings cited the NATSO Foundation’s partnership with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its “Blue Campaign” to distribute public awareness materials truckstops can post in their locations.
As an industry that caters to millions of travelers every year, truckstops and travel plazas and their employees are in a key position to help identify and report suspected incidents of human trafficking, Mullings stressed in her testimony.
“Although there is no official estimate for the total number of U.S. human trafficking victims, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of adults and minors are victims of human trafficking each year – many of whom are moved from state to state along our interstate highway system,” she said.
The NATSO Foundation provides online education courses to help truckstops and travel plazas train their staff in recognizing and responding to suspected incidents of human trafficking, Mullings noted.
“Our partnership with DHS and the law enforcement community helps ensure that the millions of Americans who stop at truckstops and travel plazas nationwide are educated about human trafficking and able to assist in the transportation sector’s fight against this crime,” she added.
Her testimony follows the passage by the House last week of H.R. 4708, the Department of Homeland Security Blue Campaign Authorization Act of 2017, which was introduced by House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) to provide “the right tools” to federal, state, and local law enforcement – as well as private sector organizations – to increase awareness and better defend against human trafficking.
Key points of this legislation include:
- R. 4708 authorizes efforts by DHS to deter, detect, and mitigate instances of human trafficking.
- It provides resources that will allow DHS to continue partnering with state, local, tribal, and territorial entities to provide training on how to raise awareness of human trafficking and coordinate efforts to prevent it.
- This bill also directs DHS to disseminate intelligence and best practices related to human trafficking trends and mitigation efforts.
- Finally, the bill bolsters DHS efforts to coordinate among public and private stakeholders, including government agencies, private entities, law enforcement partners, and non-governmental organizations efforts to raise public awareness on the threat human trafficking poses to our communities nationwide.
“We must do everything in our power to combat human trafficking, uphold human rights, and prevent our citizens from becoming victims of this heinous crime,” noted Rep. McCaul in a statement.
“The Blue Campaign Authorization Act will better equip DHS to partner, educate, and coordinate efforts and intelligence sharing on multiple levels,” he added. “It will provide resources to help deter, detect, and mitigate instances of human trafficking in our country. It will also safeguard victims and help raise public awareness of the threat human trafficking poses to our communities.”