Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents responsible for monitoring travelers across U.S. borders, and through airports, would be required to identify potential victims of human trafficking, under legislation introduced by Rep. Mark Meadows. The North Carolina Republican's bill would also require DHS agents to report these cases to local law enforcement officials.
The bill will also require the DHS to annually report to Congress the number of potential human trafficking cases reported by its federal agents.
It's one of several congressional responses to the growing migrant problem on America's Southern border.
"Human trafficking is one of the great tragedies of our time. Congress must act to do whatever it can to halt the illegal flow of smuggled humans through the U.S.," said Meadows, who was first elected in 2012 from a Western North Carolina district, in a statement.
Up to 17,500 people are trafficked through the United States each year - half of which are children, according to the State Department, according to Meadows's office. But currently, only some DHS officials receive training to detect human trafficking, which often times merely consists of viewing an online slideshow. DHS doesn't currently keep records of the number of human trafficking cases reported or confirmed, which the Human Trafficking Detection act would require.
"Children, in particular, are targets for human traffickers," Meadows noted. "Making sure that employees who directly interface with potential traffickers and victims are equipped with the proper skillset to identify human trafficking is extremely important and could save lives," Meadows added.
The proposal has bipartisan support, including from House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas). That could help ensure the proposal's passage. Other sponsors include another North Carolina Republican congressman, Richard Hudson, along with Democratic Reps. Beto O'Rourke of Texas, and Loretta Sanchez of California.