Washington, D.C. – Today, the House of Representatives passed the Targeted Rewards for the Global Eradication of Human Trafficking (TARGET) Act (H.R. 1625), which was introduced by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL). The bipartisan TARGET Act turns the tables on human traffickers by allowing the State Department to use cash rewards to help bring them to justice.

On the House floor prior to the vote, Chairman Royce delivered the following remarks (as prepared for delivery):

“I rise in support of H.R. 1625, which authorizes the State Department and federal law enforcement to target international human traffickers by offering rewards for their arrest or conviction around the globe.

Mr. Speaker, trafficking in persons is a major global crime that threatens our national security and destroys countless lives here at home and abroad.    

Many of these persons, primarily women and children, are trafficked into the international sex trade by force, fraud, or coercion.  This transnational crime also includes forced labor and involves significant violations of public health and human rights standards worldwide.

That’s why, as Representative to California’s 39th District and Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I’ve made fighting these horrific crimes a top priority.

We’ve enacted many bills in recent years, including the International Megan’s Law last February.  We’ve held committee hearings in Washington and Orange County to hear firsthand from victims.

For example, at a field hearing in Fullerton, California, we heard from Angela Guanzon, who was trafficked from the Philippines into coerced servitude in Los Angeles, where she worked for 18 hours a day without a weekend or holiday off and was forced to sleep on the hallway floor until a sharp-eyed neighbor finally alerted law enforcement.

I also helped establish a Human Trafficking Congressional Advisory Committee, which now regularly brings together law enforcement, victims’ rights groups and community advocates in Southern California to address concerns and solutions.

Mr. Speaker, we’re making progress, but there is still so much work to be done.

If we are going to end human trafficking, it will take all of us working together.  So I wish to thank Ranking Member Engel and the legislation’s co-author, Rep. Lois Frankel, for their outstanding work on this measure.     

As has been discussed today, trafficking in persons is increasingly perpetrated by sophisticated transnational criminal enterprises.

The traffickers themselves often operate outside of our borders, but the profits from the trafficking industry contribute to the expansion of organized crime and terrorism in the United States and worldwide.

That is why combating human trafficking requires a global approach to identifying and apprehending the world’s worst offenders.

H.R. 1625 – the TARGET Act – does just that.

It targets human traffickers globally through the Department of State’s successful Rewards Programs.

Rewards issued under these programs have helped lead to the capture of major terrorists and international criminals including Ramzi Yousef – who was convicted in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center – several members of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group who kidnapped and killed American citizens, and over 60 major international drug traffickers.

A reward on one’s head creates real fear for terrorists and criminals.  At one Committee hearing, a State Department official testified that one captured narcotics trafficker told DEA agents he could no longer trust anyone in his organization after the U.S. put a $5 million reward for his capture.  He said he felt like a ‘hunted man.’

Mr. Speaker, I want human traffickers to know the fear of being ‘hunted.’”

Note:  Since the inception of the State Department’s rewards program in 1984, the U.S. Government has paid rewards to people who provided actionable intelligence that, according to the State Department, prevented international terrorist attacks or helped convict individuals involved in terrorist acts. In 2012, Chairman Royce authored legislation, which became law, that expanded the State Department’s rewards program to target transnational organized criminals and the world’s worst human rights abusers.  Royce’s legislation has also been used to help disrupt wildlife poaching and trafficking networks increasingly linked to terrorists.