Human trafficking requires bipartisan solution, not partisan politics, Cortez Masto says

By: - April 5, 2022 5:03 am

Nevada Sen. Cathrine Cortez Masto in Las Vegas last week highlighting legislation to combat human trafficking. (Photo: Jeniffer Solis)

Human trafficking is a national problem and requires a bipartisan solution, says Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.

“It is something we should be working on together instead of playing politics with it, it is a problem we have,” Cortez Masto said at an RTC transit center in Las Vegas last week. “I don’t care what your politics are, we need to come together in solving this problem and helping those in need right now.”

Republicans have been on the offense in the last month when it comes to crimes centered on sexual abuse. During hearings on the nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court, several Republicans on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee accused her of being soft on child pornographers.

Law enforcement groups rebutted the accusations. Evaluators found that Jackson was within the mainstream in her sentencing practices for child pornography offenders.

The National Review, an iconic publication of the American right, described the GOP’s sexual sentencing based accusations on the nominee as “meritless to the point of demagoguery.” 

A flagship publication of the libertarian right, Reason, dismissed the accusations as an act of “political vacuity.”

Nevada Republican former attorney general Adam Laxalt, who is challenging Cortez Masto for her Senate seat, leaned into the accusations, saying Cortez Masto “has abdicated her responsibility” by supporting the nomination of Jackson, who he accused of granting “lower sentences to child pornographers, attempted rapists, and sex offenders”

“It’s already been discredited,” said Cortez Masto of the accusations against Jackson. “It’s unfortunate that some people want to play politics instead of actually solving the issues and the problems and helping the people in our community.”

Nevada ranked 15th in the number of trafficking cases reported by phone in 2020, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

During a press conference Friday, Cortez Masto highlighted legislation she introduced along with Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn to help airports and other transit centers combat human trafficking. She characterized it as work she has continued since her time as Nevada’s attorney general and one of the issues she focused on was prosecution and prevention of human trafficking.

“What we see happening in this state and across the country is human trafficking. Exploitation of so many of our kids and young people, whether it’s through sex trafficking or child pornography, is a problem,” said Cortez Masto. “It is an area I’ve worked on not only as attorney general, but continue to work on to bring awareness and resources.”

The Reduce Human Trafficking through Transportation Act would direct $10 million annually to major airports and transit hubs to be used to further human trafficking education and prevention efforts. The bill would provide dedicated funding to train transportation staff in identifying signs of human trafficking and how to intervene.

Human trafficking victims are commonly trafficked through popular transportation hubs, said transportation officials. Airports and public transportation serve as a means to transport victims to different cities across state lines anonymously and with little oversight.

The Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas has implemented human trafficking prevention policies, including the installation of a human trafficking hotline number on the door of every bathroom stall in the airport. The Reno-Tahoe International Airport has programs to provide outreach for youth who need help escaping abuse or human trafficking.

Cortez Masto also highlighted a bipartisan bill she introduced with Kansas Republican Sen. Jerry Moran to research human trafficking activity on social media platforms, including Facebook, Whatsapp, and Instagram. Since 2000, over 30% of all sex trafficking victims have been recruited online.

Data on how widespread human trafficking is online is limited and the true scope of the practice is unclear.

The Human Trafficking Online Research Act will allow the National Science Foundation director to research the role social media plays in human trafficking and online human trafficking recruitment.

“We need to make sure as a community, as a country, that we not only understand what’s happening in our community but we put in the resources that are necessary,” Cortez Masto. “We don’t have enough data to tell us the scope of the problem we have.”

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