The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) defines trafficking as the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.
I had limited knowledge of the extent of Human Trafficking in the United States and in Pennsylvania until I served on a committee at the United Nations in New York. Most Americans acknowledge Human Trafficking as a problem in foreign countries, but Pittsburgh, and Western Pennsylvania are a part of the Human Trafficking corridor. According to RESTORE, NYC serves as a gateway and is one of the largest destinations for trafficked women entering the country. In 2016, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children estimated that 1 in 6 endangered runaways reported to them were likely sex trafficking victims. Globally, the International Labor Organization estimates that there are 4.5 million people trapped in forced sexual exploitation globally (Polaris). The following statistics are cause for concern:
51% of identified victims of trafficking are women, 28% children and 21% men
72% people exploited in the sex industry are women
63% of identified traffickers were men and 37% women
43% of victims are trafficked domestically within national borders
(Estimates by The United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC))
I traveled to Harrisburg to meet with Jacqueline Wheeler Greene, an Ambassador for Shared Hope International, Center for Law and Policy. Wheeler Greene was a wealth of information about trafficking in Pennsylvania. I listened to a PSA while in Harrisburg regarding Human Trafficking and the signs to look for. This PSA furthered the need to inform more people in Pittsburgh. Children and adults are disappearing and being sold into slavery while we are not addressing the problem. It has been stated that there are 57,000 people living in slavery in the United States.
It has been reported that “Victims of child trafficking can be used and abused over and over. A $32 billion-a year industry, human trafficking is on the rise and is in all 50 states. (US Government) 4.5 Million of trafficked persons are sexually exploited. Up to 300,000 Americans under the age of 18 are lured into the commercial sex trade every year. The National Human Trafficking Hotline reported almost 5,600 calls in 2016, 156 were from Pennsylvania or 3% of the calls.
If you have not seen the movie Taken 1, please do so. It illuminates this issue and shows how innocently girls can be taken. This is also occurring with young children of all genders and ages. The children are groomed to go into prostitution. One of the tricks we as adults must be cognizant of, is the Traffickers are moving into neighborhoods with school age children. A child that is living with the Trafficker will have a sleep over. The children attending the sleep over are drugged and the entire house hold disappears with the innocent children, never to be seen again.
In the 21st Century, the old profession has a cyber script to it and has gone viral. The problem is bigger and more common than many of us think , based on the reports of local police and reports from across the State. A defendant from New Castle Pennsylvania, is charged with allegedly bringing a 14-year-old girl from Ohio to Pennsylvania advertising her on the Internet as a lady of the evening for hire. A thirty year old man of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, is alleged to have contacted young women on the Internet, luring them into meeting with him. At which point he is alleged to have forced the young women into human sex trafficking, severely abusing many of the women in the process.
Two local TV stations, WTAE and WPXI acknowledge that Human Trafficking is a growing problem in Pittsburgh. WTAE reporter, Marcie Cipriani, reported on an international Human Trafficking sex ring with a Pittsburgh man as its leader. This issue must be addressed before it becomes more pervasive. Our families and citizens of the 18th Congressional District must be protected. The extent of this issue is far reaching, FBI officials consider Human Trafficking, the third largest criminal activity in the world.
1. Write legislation for a portion of law enforcement confiscated funds and property sales to be utilized to combat Human Trafficking . I would make a set aside, to fund a joint law enforcement / university project, to work with groups such as Shared Hope International, The Project to End Human Trafficking and Villanova University‘s Commercial Sexual Exploitation Institute in each region of the nation. These groups would work with the general public in developing further strategies to educate school age children, colleges, and the public regarding Human Trafficking.
2. To put these measures in place on a local level in the 18th Congressional District , working to train, educate, advocate and seek solutions with the FBI, local law-enforcement, our educators and the general public to combat Human Trafficking in our district.
In this period of the 21st century, we cannot view the television news without hearing some story concerning the opioid epidemic, nor can we turn to the left or the right of our friends and neighbors without finding someone who has been touched in some way by the opioid epidemic.
“Last year, 2017 there were 652 cases which were finalized as drug overdose deaths in Allegheny County. When the test for other cases come in later this year, this number may well top 700 deaths in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh Post Gazette).“ This is a trend that continues to take a greater toll in lives in each of the past three years. According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette the following counties had increases in deaths in 2017: Butler County 92; Fayette County 67; Lawrence County 54; and Westmoreland County 190. While intervention groups and Narcan training are slowing the tide on this epidemic, it may not stem the tide of the flood of drugs both illicit and prescribed drugs that pervade our inner-city communities.
Of the 652 opioid related deaths in Allegheny County in 2017, 71% were white males, the most affected age group is in the 25 to 34 years of age, and the most heavily affected communities are McKees Rocks, Carrick, the Hilltop communities, and the North Side of Pittsburgh.
While most of our City, County, and State leaders have weighed in on the matter publicly and are seeking remedies to reduce the death rate, however after a search of local media article, it appears that there is a void of public comments from the sitting 18th Congressional Congressman.
According to the news, in a time where Manchester, New Hampshire, a town of approximately 2,600 residents at the time, experienced over 600 opioid drug deaths in one year, and they were receiving Federal assistance to stem the tide of opioid deaths. Likewise, there is a small West Virginia town in which prescription opioids were dumped into the community in massively disproportionate quantities to the population base; this was unchecked despite the best efforts of the Drug Enforcement Agency to forestall the Pharmaceutical Industry from doing so. However, our own Congress and Federal Court system stopped the D.E.A. from doing it’s duty and a mid-state Pennsylvania Congressman tapped to be President Donald Trump’s Drug Czar crafted a bill that on the surface seemed to be helpful to people needing opioids to control their pain, but allowed the pharmaceutical industry to flood small towns like Manchester, New Hampshire with pharmaceutical grade opioids which hyper fueled the epidemic. This is an abuse of privilege and should not be allowed to happen.
In the D.E.A.”s efforts to stem the pharmaceutical industries agenda to flood the country with pharmaceutical opioids which massively increased the opioid death rate across the Nation; the pharmaceutical industry raided the D.E.A. for some of their top attorney’s, supervisors and investigators to work for the industry and against the D.E.A. According to the report by the Washington Post / 60 Minutes, currently 92 people die every day in America from an opioid related death rate, but the funding and the man power is needed to stem the tide of this deadly epidemic. Without firm leadership this epidemic will only deepen and more people will perish. When elected to Congress I will propose the following measures: (1) Create a more extensive pharmaceutical drug registry. (2) This registry (data base) will allow Federal, State, and Local law enforcement agencies to track the flow of pharmaceutical grade opioids from the drug companies to doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, and the patients they are prescribed to. (3) Increase Narcan training to include high schools, colleges, and public places.
Globalization and changing technology have increased the competition we face from many nations and, as a result, US jobs have become vulnerable.
We should not lose sight of the fact that individuals and families are struggling. Additional policies must be developed that will assist American workers to compete globally without giving unfair advantage to foreign businesses.
Environmental pollutants are poisoning us and impacting our health.
Educational priorities need to be examined and teachers should be empowered provide input into what works in their districts.
These are the individuals that place their lives on the line for us daily. Assurances must be made that equipment and supportive services are available to them.
Every society is judged by how well it protects its seniors, and its weak and vulnerable population.
Guns and Street Violence
Legislation must be developed to prevent youth from obtaining street guns and we must examine the social implications of youth involvement in gangs.
Genetically Modified Foods
The U.S. has a rich endowment of rich farmlands, and a very highly skilled farmer population that is the envy of the world.
We need to return to a long-term and sustainable federal budget of the kind that was President Clinton’s legacy.
America has to maintain a strong defense system.
America has to maintain its national security interests and develop stronger alliances with its allies.
Continue to strengthen access to affordable healthcare. Citizens must have the option of selecting alternative or complementary health services that are reimbursed at the standard rates.
Policies that support women’s economic security enrich our children, sustain our families and strengthen entire communities.
Children of immigrants are entitled to remain in this country with safeguards and individual responsibilities. More has to be done to reform immigration policies.