Washington, D.C. – In yesterday’s Indian Affairs Committee Hearing, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) questioned expert witnesses about the need to empower state and local officials to work alongside U.S. attorneys to combat human trafficking in Indian country.
“Is it fair enough to say that because there are, unfortunately, so many human trafficking incidents, there is more than enough work for U.S. attorneys to do? And it would be much better to allow the District Attorneys and the Attorneys General to be able to prosecute under a federal crime if sex trafficking is not a crime in their state? Because this is something we do all the time when dealing with other crimes. State Attorneys general are regularly authorized to prosecute cases under federal law if the crime is not illegal under local law,” said Cortez Masto.
“We’re very supportive of allowing state prosecutors to work alongside federal officials. Any suggestion to provide more resources would be welcome,” said Mr. Tracy Toulou, Director of the Office of Tribal Justice at the U.S. Department of Justice.
The hearing took place on the same day that the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report indicating the need for greater federal intervention to prevent traffickers from preying on Native American communities.
Sen. Cortez Masto co-sponsored two anti-trafficking bills that recently passed in the Senate: the Abolish Human Trafficking Act of 2017 and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2017. If signed into law, these bills would give law enforcement additional tools, training, and resources to target organized human trafficking. Cortez Masto is also the co-sponsor of legislation, the Trafficking Survivors Relief Act of 2017, to wipe the criminal records of survivors who were forced to commit crimes while enslaved.
A full video of Cortez Masto’s questioning is available here.