Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced legislation today to crack down on drug-facilitated human trafficking. The bipartisan, bicameral Protecting Rights of Those Exploited by Coercive Trafficking (PROTECT) Act (H.R. 5027) specifically addresses the use of drugs to facilitate human trafficking and protect vulnerable victims of trafficking.

The PROTECT Act would amend existing human trafficking law to specify that the use of drugs or illegal substances to cause a person to engage in a commercial sex act or forced labor constitutes a form of coercion. It also aims to protect trafficking victims from prosecution by recognizing that victims are often forced to commit crimes by virtue of their own victimization.

“Living in the greatest country in the world, it’s an unfortunate reality that there are still basic human rights abuses, like human trafficking, that take place in our society. We have an obligation to do everything in our power to address and correct these abuses – an obligation I took seriously as a federal prosecutor and do now as a lawmaker,” Ratcliffe said.

“Creating and preying on the addictions of children is just one of the many despicable tools traffickers use to control their victims. The PROTECT Act would clarify that using drugs to force individuals into sex or labor trafficking demands a greater criminal penalty,” Cornyn said.

The PROTECT Act is endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, National Sheriffs’ Association, Major County Sheriff’s Association, National District Attorney’s Association, Polaris Project, Shared Hope International, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and Truckers against Trafficking.

Also signing on as original cosponsors are Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.)

More information on the PROTECT Act is available here.