Washington D.C.—Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX), Lead Republican of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, spoke on the House Floor in support of the Leveraging Information on Foreign Traffickers (LIFT) Act, legislation to combat human trafficking.

-Opening Remarks as Delivered-

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“Thank you, Madam Speaker: The trafficking of people – whether for sexual exploitation or forced labor – is an affront to human dignity.   

“It is, as the gentleman from Texas said, a modern-day form of slavery that oppresses nearly 25 million people around the world, including right here in the United States and in my home state of Texas.

“A few years-ago, a mother from Katy, Texas, my district, reached out to me with one request: please help me bring my daughter home, my daughter Courtney.

“Courtney was a Junior in high school. She was on the swim team and attended church regularly. She was groomed at her high school.

“Many parents think: “this can’t happen to my child, not in Suburbia, in Houston.” But just ask Courtney’s family that question.

“The traffickers embedded themselves in the high school – they operated through Courtney’s classmates. Like leeches they latched onto Courtney’s vulnerabilities, and they used them against her.

“It was then that she was swept up into this nightmare and used like property. 

We may expect things like this out of foreign countries, but not in our backyards.

“Thankfully, after several months of work with law enforcement, Courtney returned home to her family. I was there when she came home. She had battle scars. She had lost so much weight. She had just about died. And it was quite the reunion, with a mother and father and their daughter who had been gone for almost two years.

“She now dedicates her time to raising awareness and educating others on the signs of human trafficking. Her work earned her a spot on the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking.

“I could not be more proud of her work and her inspiration to me and her contributions to the Council.

“It is because of survivors like Courtney and countless others that Chairman Engel and I introduced the LIFT Act to continue our committee’s 20-year commitment to combating human trafficking.

“The LIFT Act will help our law enforcement and diplomatic officials communicate better so we can then root out more human traffickers and bring them to justice.

“I was surprised to find out that when someone applies for a visa at an embassy or consulate and they’re denied on human trafficking grounds, that information is not currently given to our law enforcement officers and to the FBI.

“The LIFT Act also gives a voice to survivors of human trafficking, so that brave people like Courtney will remain a central part of the policy discussion. 

“By reauthorizing the survivor-led U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking through 2025, which is what this bill does, we are empowering survivors and sharpening our tools to counter human traffickers. 

“I am very grateful for the support this bill has received from the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 

“Madam Speaker, the evil of slavery was abolished in this country many years ago. We are still living up to the principles of our founding fathers that all men are created equal. We are still bringing this country to justice – to racial and social justice. It is still something we strive for. We must end this form of human slavery today, and this bill is a start. We have a lot more work to do. The numbers are very perplexing – in fact, the numbers are very disturbing – of young children, both little girls and boys, who are swept up into this awful system.

“I worked most of my life as a federal prosecutor on these issues, and now in Congress, I have put the worst of the worst behind bars for these crimes, where they deserve to spend a very long time in our prison system. They are the lowest of the low.

“With this bill today, we renew and strengthen our commitment to stand with the exploited and the children against their oppressors.

“And with that, I reserve the balance of my time.”

-Closing Remarks as Delivered-

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“In 2002 I formed the Internet Crimes Against Children’s unit in the attorney general’s office in the state of Texas to stop this internet trafficking and stop the exploitation of children online. Since that day we have put thousands behind bars.

“This is a worldwide scourge; it happens on an international level. But what is again most disturbing is it’s happening now in our back yards. It’s happening in suburbia America.

“The case like Courtney is so compelling because you never thought it would be possible in a town like Katie, Texas. But it happens, and it’s happening all over this nation. And the numbers from the FBI are revealing, and it is an industry. It’s a sick industry that’s run by businessmen, that’s run by lawyers – an industry that exploits our children.

“I talked to many veterans with PTSD, but I can’t imagine the post-traumatic stress of a victim of human trafficking who has been violated over and over and over again, offending the deepest ounce of human dignity where there is no dignity left – where they had to put their mind in such a place, almost like Stockholm Syndrome, where they can survive the horrors they are living in day in and day out.

“Madam Speaker, this has to stop. This Congress and this bill will help, but this Congress and the next Congress – we really need to ramp up our efforts to take this issue square on, to put these monsters out of their business and say they are closed forever, and to put them behind bars for a very, very long time.

“Madam Speaker, I would like to thank many in my district who have worked hard on this issue. Houston 20 Organization Jen Hohman, and Austin 20 Lisa Knapp – these women are warriors for the cause against human trafficking. I also want to thank the Harris County Human Trafficking Task Force for their great work in this effort. They are truly one of the models for the nation.

“When the officials from homeland security came down from the Blue Campaign, they told me, ‘This is one of the most effective operations we have seen in the United States, and it’s a model for the nation.’

“So with that, Madam Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support this meaningful, necessary legislation, and I yield back the balance of my time.”

The LIFT Act:

  • Ensures that U.S. anti-trafficking and law enforcement officials receive timely information about foreigners denied entry into the United States for reasons related to human trafficking.
  • Standardizes the State Department’s deadline to submit the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report.
  • Extends the survivor-led Advisory Council on Human Trafficking through 2025, so that survivors remain central to the U.S. policy discussion.