A national expert on human trafficking urged Iowa lawmakers today (Thursday) to make it a crime to force someone into prostitution or sweatshop labor. Leslie Wolf is the president of the Center for Women Policy Studies in Washington. Wolf says human trafficking has become a global crisis and federal laws aren’t enough.
The federal government has prosecuted one case of human trafficking in Cedar Rapids.
She says local lawmakers don’t want to wait for a federal case to unfold here. Federal prosecutors are stretched very thin, she says, advising that Iowans won’t want to wait for them to track down cases, “because then you will know that you have a bigger problem.”
Wolf says states like Iowa need to pass their own anti-trafficking laws so local law enforcement can help. You can’t expect the US Department of Justice and the FBI to do everything, she says, and no state would want that.
For every one federal prosecuted, she says that’s just the tip of a huge iceberg, and there are dozens of people locked away you won’t know about. Wolf says women in poor countries are promised jobs in other countries but wind up working in prostitution, or laboring in sweatshops, in farm fields, or as housekeepers in private homes.
As of this month, she says 13 states have passed laws criminalizing human trafficking, while four or five others have created task forces to study the problem.