The 1st Congressional District’s new representative announced the first bill he has authored Tuesday.
Rep. Bryan Steil made appearances in the district Tuesday to talk about his bill, which is designed to penalize countries that don’t do enough to stop international human trafficking.
The legislation seeks to bolster the effectiveness of the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report.
The report allows the United States to restrict aid to countries that don’t measure up in their efforts to stem human trafficking.
Steil’s bill, the Exposing the Financing of Human Trafficking Act (House Resolution 2149), would require the State Department to consider a country’s efforts to prosecute financial crimes connected to human trafficking, something that is not now considered.
Steil spoke at the Janesville Police Department, flanked by the Janesville police chief and sheriffs and administrators from Rock and Walworth counties.
The bill would increase pressure on large international gangs as they try to launder the profits of human trafficking, Steil said.
Steil said he got the idea to go after human trafficking from law enforcement officials he talked to, who told him it was a local problem.
None of the law enforcement executives at the press conference could point to a case of international human trafficking in their jurisdictions, but they said coercing people to engage in sex for money is a local problem.
Janesville Police Chief Dave Moore said officers are seeing more cases of women coerced into prostitution, possibly because of more awareness of the problem.
Moore said he was pleased with the opportunity to highlight the problem and said he wouldn’t be surprised if increased awareness led to local investigations of human traffickers with an international connection.
Federal prosecutors for the Eastern District of Wisconsin last week indicted five people, accusing them of forcing Mexican nationals from Georgia to work on farms in Wisconsin.
Steil said the bill had bipartisan support, including from co-sponsor Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pennsylvania, and Rep. Mark Pocan in Wisconsin’s 2nd District.
Steil said he was optimistic the bill will be passed and said he hoped soon to announce support from an international organization that combats human trafficking.
The International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency, issued a report this month estimating that forced commercial sex exploitation generates $99 billion in illegal profits worldwide.
The report said another $51 billion resulted from forced labor, including domestic work and agriculture.
First District voters chose Steil to replace fellow Janesville Republican Paul Ryan in the November elections.