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Put the Brakes on Human Trafficking

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Remarks As Prepared for Delivery by
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao
Put the Brakes on Human Trafficking
Washington, DC
Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Thank you, Jane.

Thank you for being here today to support this very important initiative.  I would like to acknowledge some of our distinguished guests and participants in today’s event:

  • Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes
  • Congressman Chris Smith
  • Congressman Henry Cuellar  
  • First Lady of Georgia Marty Kemp
  • Kendis Paris, Executive Director of Truckers Against Trafficking

Our purpose here today is to make the transportation sector a more effective force against the evil that is human trafficking. 

America’s roadways, railways, airways, and waterways are being used to facilitate this modern form of slavery.  The transportation sector is in a unique position to help save victims of human trafficking from unimaginable suffering, abuse and despair.  And assist law enforcement in apprehending the perpetrators. 

That’s why we’ve called upon transportation leaders to take a public stand against human trafficking by signing our Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking pledge.  We now have well over 250 pledges signed by every mode of transportation, labor, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from across the country.  The signatories have committed to training over one million employees to help fight human trafficking -- that’s welcome news!

And I’m going on record to say that the Department is committed to obtaining 100 more pledges over the next 100 days.

At the U.S. Department of Transportation, initiatives are underway to increase awareness of human trafficking and equip transportation industry employees and the public with strategies to fight it.  Detection, deterrence and disruption are the three top strategies being deployed in the transportation sector. 

Over 53,000 U.S. Department of Transportation employees receive mandatory counter-trafficking training – including special instruction for bus and truck inspectors.  The Department also works with Federal agencies and NGOs to develop and distribute a suite of human trafficking awareness training tailored for the aviation, rail, motor coach, trucking and transit industries.  The Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking initiative provides mode-specific public awareness materials for any transportation stakeholder to use.  The Department partners with the Department of Homeland Security on the Blue Lightning Initiative training for aviation.  And facilitates counter-trafficking public awareness campaigns at major transportation hubs.  Together with our partners in this cause, we are training flight attendants, truck drivers, train conductors, bus drivers, and other transportation employees to recognize and report human trafficking.

The Federal Transit Administration is awarding $5.4 million to 24 organizations around the U.S. to support the prevention of human trafficking and other crimes that may occur on buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation.  In 2019, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration awarded over $1 million in grants to combat human trafficking through driver’s license standards and programs. 

To incentivize innovation in fighting human trafficking, the Department recently announced a Combating Human Trafficking in Transportation Impact Award.  This $50,000 award will encourage the development and sharing of creative solutions to combat human trafficking in the transportation sector.  Submissions from individuals, as well as organizations, are being accepted through this Friday!

The Department is also implementing the No Human Trafficking on Our Roads Act to help ensure that those who use a commercial motor vehicle to commit human trafficking lose their commercial driver’s license – forever!

The Department of Transportation is a member of the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (PITF) -- a Cabinet-level group chaired by the Secretary of State.  The Department also exerts its influence as a member of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Transportation Working Group (APEC-TPTWG), the International Transport Forum (ITF), and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).  The Department utilizes these forums to emphasize the important role transportation ministries around the world have in combating human trafficking. 

On October 3, 2018, I appointed 15 members to the U.S. Department of Transportation Advisory Committee on Human Trafficking.  The Committee includes experts in all the transportation modes: aviation, maritime, trucking, rail, transit, and bus -- from industry and labor.  And law enforcement and non-governmental organizations. 

The Committee heard from expert advocates for the eradication of human trafficking, including:  Shamere McKenzie, Chief Executive Officer of the Sun Gate Foundation.  Shamere, herself a survivor of human trafficking, is going to be on one of the panels this afternoon. 

The Committee submitted its final report -- “Combating Human Trafficking in the Transportation Sector” -- in July, with recommendations for the Department, U.S. Congress, States, private industry, non-governmental organizations, and local transportation authorities.  The Department is exploring opportunities for addressing the Committee’s recommendations, has submitted the final report to Congress, and shared it with Governors and State Departments of Transportation.

It is shocking to learn that in this day and age, something so horrible as human trafficking exists.  But it is happening.  And it is happening in the United States, in our cities, suburbs and rural areas.  Thank you to everyone who has made the training  commitment.  And please use your networks, and your influence, to help enlist even more allies in this effort.  

There are a lot of good people in this room, and around the country, who are in positions to help the victims and fight the perpetrators.  So let’s bring together our best efforts, the best strategies, and necessary resources to our battle against human trafficking. 

Thanks for being with us in support today! Thanks for caring! 

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