Sen. Cortez Masto introduces bill to help human trafficking victims

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev. (AP Photo/Ellen Schmidt, File)

By Emilia Pablo

August 4, 2023

The fight against human trafficking is real in Nevada, which has the second highest rate of human trafficking per capita in the country.

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat, has long been one of the state’s leaders working to help victims. Now, she’s introduced new legislation at the federal level that would quickly trigger the help victims need when escaping terrible, inhumane situations.

The Jimmy Deal Trafficking Survivors Assistance Act, introduced last month, would establish a partnership between Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents and anti-human trafficking nonprofits to help survivors access lifesaving care via air travel.

One of the biggest problems facing victims of human trafficking is the lack of identification documents they’d need to travel by plane in order to flee the tragic situation of being held against their will, and hopefully, to reunite with their loved ones.

According to Rescue America’s national emergency hotline for trafficking survivors, 38% of survivors who’ve called their hotline in the last three years did not have identity documents.

“When survivors flee their traffickers, we need to make it as easy as possible for them to access the care they need while upholding airport security,” Sen. Cortez Masto said in a press release.

Cortez Masto’s office noted in the release that “human traffickers often control access to their victims’ identification documents and many survivors leave their documents behind when attempting to flee, making air travel difficult.”

The bill would establish a The Trafficking Survivor Point of Contact (TSPoC) within each airport that the TSA conducts screenings of passengers. This individual would be trained on how to best work with victims of domestic violence and establish relationships with the nonprofits or other local organizations that work with survivors of domestic violence.

When one of these groups requests help for a survivor who lacks ID, the TPSoC would facilitate travel assistance for survivors of human trafficking via the TSA Cares program, which offers help to travelers with disabilities, medical conditions, and others who need assistance. The TPSoC would also be involved in the vetting process in order to verify the identity of the individual at the screening checkpoint, and would accompany the individual–or assign someone to accompany them–through the security screenings, and at the survivor’s request, up to the departure gate.

The bill is named after the late TSA Assistant Federal Security Director, Jimmy Deal, who worked with local advocates in Reno to ensure that survivors escaping abuse could board planes and reunite with their families.

“Jimmy Deal worked to make sure these vulnerable people could escape, and my legislation will help expand his life saving efforts in airports across the country,” Sen. Cortez Masto said.

The bill is just the latest effort from Cortez Masto to combat human trafficking. As Nevada Attorney General, she wrote the law to make human trafficking a felony crime in Nevada.

Most recently, the senator helped pass federal legislation to train law enforcement to identify and prevent child trafficking and combat human trafficking activity on social media. Furthermore, she is leading bipartisan legislation to combat trafficking at transportation hubs.

The new bill has been endorsed by a host of organizations: Awaken, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), Polaris, the Charleston Law Center, Nevada Policy Council on Human Trafficking, Hope for Family Resilience, the Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence, Xquisite, Rescue America, the National Trafficking Sheltered Alliance, and the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.

Click this VIDEO link to watch Sen. Cortez Masto’s spokesperson, Tony Hernandez, speak about the bill in Spanish.

  • Emilia Pablo

    Emilia Pablo Bazan is The Nevadan, El Nevadense Political Correspondent. She is an alumna from U.C. Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism with over 10 years of experience working in the television news industry. She's also a former speechwriter and press officer for the Obama administration and an Emmy award recipient.

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