Senator Heidi Heitkamp United States Senator for North Dakota

Human Trafficking

Since joining the Senate, Senator Heitkamp is continuing the work she started as North Dakota’s Attorney General to protect some of the most vulnerable among us and prosecute those who seek to take advantage for their own personal gain. Senator Heitkamp has been a leader in Congress in working to combat human and sex trafficking -- which is an unfortunately growing problem in North Dakota, particularly in the oil patch and in Indian Country. She is working to shine a spotlight on this issue so others realize trafficking is not only happening abroad, but also in our own backyard.

Statistics show on average children are 13 years old when they are forced to become victims of sex trafficking. Around the world, it is estimated that more than 20 million individuals are trafficked for sex or labor – including thousands in the United States.

Finding Solutions to Stop Human Trafficking

In September 2013, Senator Heitkamp helped lead a Senate hearing to better understand the work being done on the federal, state, and local levels to combat human trafficking. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, which Senator Heitkamp asked the Committee to hold, brought together officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Justice, and non-profit leaders who are on the frontlines of addressing human trafficking. Senator Heitkamp facilitated this hearing in order to gain a better understanding of the work being done to stop human trafficking and to elevate the issue in Washington. 

As a former Attorney General, Senator Heitkamp understands the need to provide increased protection to victims of human trafficking so that they are not saddled with the stigma of a criminal record, see a way out of their situations, and use increased services to find a path forward for better lives. In November 2013, Senator Heitkamp joined Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) in introducing the Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act, a bipartisan bill that would make sure minors who are sold into sex trafficking rings are treated as victims, not criminals. It would also take important steps forward by better enabling prosecutors to help victims and crack down on sex trafficking across the U.S. and on Indian reservations. Currently, those who are sex trafficked are often afraid to come forward because they could be charged with crimes like prostitution. Senator Heitkamp’s bill would instead get these minors help. 

Shining a Light on Human Trafficking in North Dakota 

After introducing the Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act, Senators Heitkamp and Klobuchar joined law enforcement and social service advocates in Fargo to push the bipartisan legislation to crack down on sex trafficking and hear directly from officials who are dealing with the issue first-hand. 

Additionally, Senator Heitkamp and officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security held a training session in Fargo on identifying and reporting potential occurrences of human trafficking.  The training brought together local businesses and social workers, school personnel and leaders of advocacy organizations to help raise awareness about human trafficking, training North Dakotans on what to look for, and how to report what they see. 

Senator Heitkamp continues to meet regularly with local, state, and federal officials; advocates; law enforcement; victims; and others to beat the drum on stopping this problem. 

A Global Advocate Against Human Trafficking 

Senator Heitkamp has been working closely with Senator Klobuchar and Cindy McCain to end human trafficking. She first met with Cindy McCain, the wife of U.S. Senator John McCain, to strategize about efforts to combat sex and human trafficking, and to discuss the Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act. McCain has been a global leader in the effort to reduce human trafficking around the world and co-chairs the Arizona Governor’s Task Force on Human Trafficking.  

Senator Heitkamp, Senator Klobuchar, and Cindy McCain traveled to Mexico to discuss joint efforts to fight sex and labor trafficking and the increasing ties to Mexico’s drug trafficking gangs. The trio met with the Attorney General of Mexico, the head of the Mexican federal police, sex trafficking prosecutors and NGOs, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, and Mexican Senators involved in the issue to learn about the actions Mexico is taking to stop human trafficking, and what help they could offer as we work to address it in North Dakota and around the nation. 

At the invitation of Cindy McCain, Senator Heitkamp participated in the McCain Institute’s annual Sedona Forum that brought together leaders to discuss current global political and humanitarian issues and look at various options and approaches to address pressing global concerns. Senators Heitkamp and Klobuchar and Cindy McCain discussed human trafficking and examined ways to combat the problem. They highlighted their previous meetings with local officials and advocates and their trip to Mexico, as well as the Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act

Senator Heitkamp's Recent Work on Human Trafficking

June 2018

Date Title
6/12/18 DHS releases New Northern Border Strategy, Following up on Heitkamp’s Bipartisan Bill

May 2018

Date Title
5/30/18 Heitkamp Hosts Discussion in Watford City on Combating Human Trafficking & her Anti-Trafficking Bill that Became Law with Law Enforcement & Victims’ Advocates
5/4/18 Heitkamp Statement Ahead of National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls

April 2018

Date Title
4/11/18 President Signs Heitkamp’s Bipartisan Bill into Law that will Crack Down on Human Trafficking, Hold Websites Like Backpage.com Accountable

March 2018

Date Title
3/26/18 Heitkamp-McCain Bill to Expand AMBER Alerts in Indian Country Passes in the Senate, Will be Signed into Law
3/21/18 Heitkamp’s Bipartisan Bill to Hold Websites Like Backpage.com Accountable for Sex Trafficking, Protect Victims Passes Senate, Now goes to be Signed into Law
3/20/18 Heitkamp Announces Introduction of Bipartisan Bill to Combat Youth Homelessness and Trafficking in Keynote Speech at National Network for Youth Summit

January 2018

Date Title
1/11/18 On Human Trafficking Awareness Day, Heitkamp Announces Her Bill to Hold Websites like Backpage.com Accountable for Sex Trafficking has Enough Support to Pass Senate

November 2017

Date Title
11/15/17 Heitkamp: New Report a Call to Action to Combat Youth Homelessness
11/9/17 U.S. Senate Committee Passes Bipartisan Bill Heitkamp Helped Write & Introduce to Hold Websites like Backpage.com Accountable for their Role in Facilitating Sex Trafficking