Wagner Introduces Legislation to Protect Victims of Trafficking, Child Exploitation, Identity Theft, Financial Crimes
Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO) and Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX) introduced the Homeland Security Investigations Victim Assistance Act to codify and expand the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Victim Assistance Program (VAP) to ensure victims of federal crimes have access to the assistance and support they need. In January 2020, the Department of Homeland Security issued the “Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking, the Importation of Goods Produced with Forced Labor, and Child Sexual Exploitation.” Acting Secretary Chad Wolf called for the expansion of the Homeland Security Investigations Victim Assistance Program as a core part of implementing this strategy and putting victims first.
“I’m proud to introduce the Homeland Security Investigations Victim Assistance Act to improve support of victims of crimes investigated by DHS’s Homeland Security Investigations, including human trafficking, child exploitation, identity theft, human rights violations, and financial crimes,” said Congresswoman Wagner. “This bill would formally establish the Victim Assistance Program and fund trained victim assistance specialists so that HSI offices in Missouri and throughout the country have experts on hand to support victims. We must make sure victims of federal crime have their rights protected and are referred to support services as they move through the investigation and prosecution process.”
“Human trafficking and exploitation have no place in our society. As we work to fight against these heinous acts, we must also protect and support the thousands of men, women and children who fall victim each year,” said Congressman Cuellar. “This bipartisan legislation will expand community and victim services to survivors so they are able to rebuild their lives. As the Vice Chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Appropriations, I will continue to fund programs that support the needs of victims and survivors of these horrible crimes. I look forward to working Congresswoman Wagner in passing this important legislation.”
About the bill: The Homeland Security Investigations Victim Assistance Act codifies the Victim Assistance Program (VAP) within Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). This legislation requires the VAP to provide at least one Forensic Interview Specialist and one Victim Assistance Specialist to each HSI Special Agent in Charge office, a Victim Assistance Specialist to every HSI office participating in a human trafficking task force or child sexual exploitation task force, and a Victim Assistance Specialist to every HSI regional attaché office. Moreover, the VAP shall provide oversight, guidance, and training on topics such as victims’ rights, victim-related policies, and the victim-centered approach to victim assistance personnel nationwide. These requirements are supported by an annual $25 million appropriation authorized from FY21 through FY25.