In the U.S. Senate, Senator Heitkamp has been a leader working to combat human trafficking in North Dakota, across the country, and around the world. She led an initial Senate hearing in September 2013 to sound the alarm on the prevalence of human trafficking right in our own backyard, including in North Dakota.
Cracking Down on Websites that Knowingly Facilitate Trafficking
Since that hearing, Senator Heitkamp has been championing legislative action to fight human trafficking. She helped write and introduce bipartisan legislation – which Congress passed and was signed into law in April 2018 -- to make sure websites, like Backpage.com, that knowingly facilitate sex trafficking online can be held accountable. The legislation followed a two year investigation by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which Senator Heitkamp sits on, into ads placed on Backpage.com of victims of sex trafficking, including in North Dakota. As part of the investigation, Senator Heitkamp and the Subcommittee held multiple hearings on Backpage.com. In January 2017, the Subcommittee released its report, which found that Backpage.com deliberately crafted loopholes that enabled trafficking on its site – particularly of children.
More Legislative Action to Stop Trafficking
Senator Heitkamp also played a key role in introducing and passing bipartisan legislation on the issue in 2015 in the U.S. Senate, which included her Safe Harbor bill to make sure victims are not treated as criminals.
She has continued to introduce more bills on the issue to provide resources for health care providers to stop human trafficking and protect runaway and homeless youth from trafficking. She successfully secured landmark anti-human trafficking protections for children in schools in the No Child Left Behind reform legislation. Building on that legislation, Senator Heitkamp helped introduce a bill, which passed in the U.S. Senate to boost assistance to victims of human trafficking, strengthen law enforcement and victims services organizations, and make sure perpetrators of these crimes are subject to harsher punishments.
Protecting Native American Women and Children from Violence
Senator Heitkamp has long been working to build a more robust response to addressing crime and human trafficking in Indian Country and of Native Americans. On some reservations, Native women are murdered at 10 times the national average, and 84 percent of Native women have experienced violence in their lifetime.
Senator Heitkamp introduced Savanna’s Act to make sure North Dakota’s tribes have the information and resources they need to protect women and girls from violence, abduction, and human trafficking. The bill is named in honor of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, who was tragically killed in Fargo in August 2017. Senator Heitkamp started the #NotInvisible campaign to raise awareness about the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women and bring it out of the shadows.
Senator Heitkamp has also focused on building a robust public safety infrastructure in Indian Country. Her bipartisan legislation to expand AMBER alerts in Indian Country—introduced alongside her friend, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) — was signed into law by the President. Such alerts are critical for law enforcement efforts to quickly disseminate information to the public about abducted children to generate leads as quickly as possible, but these alerts were previously unavailable in many parts of Indian Country.
As North Dakota’s former Attorney General, Senator Heitkamp worked to raise awareness about the need for a permanent federal law enforcement presence across Indian Country. Since joining the U.S. Senate, she has continued to call for a permanent FBI office in western North Dakota and Indian Country. There is now an FBI office in Williston, which she successfully pushed for, and she continues to press for an office on tribal lands.
Senator Heitkamp's Recent Work on Human Trafficking
|8/23/18||Heitkamp Helps Pass Bipartisan Bill to Provide Strong Support for North Dakota Defense Priorities, Servicemembers, Access to Health Care, Educators, & Workers|
|7/31/18||Heitkamp Helps Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Combat Human Trafficking in Indian Country|
|6/12/18||DHS releases New Northern Border Strategy, Following up on Heitkamp’s Bipartisan Bill|
|4/11/18||President Signs Heitkamp’s Bipartisan Bill into Law that will Crack Down on Human Trafficking, Hold Websites Like Backpage.com Accountable|
|3/26/18||Heitkamp-McCain Bill to Expand AMBER Alerts in Indian Country Passes in the Senate, Will be Signed into Law|