MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar is leading a delegation to Mexico with U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp to discuss joint efforts to fight sex trafficking and the growing heroin epidemic. Klobuchar and Heitkamp will be joined on their three-day trip by Cindy McCain, who co-chairs the Arizona Governor’s Task Force on Human Trafficking. They will meet with the Attorney General of Mexico, sex trafficking prosecutors and NGOS, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, and Mexican Senators involved in the issue to push for coordinated efforts to combat sex trafficking in Mexico and the United States. The Senators will also lead meetings with the Mexican National Security Commission, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and other officials to discuss ways to combat the growing heroin epidemic.
“The United States needs to be a leader for the rest of the world in fighting crimes against women, including sex trafficking. This is an opportunity to focus on how we can work with Mexico to combat sex trafficking head-on in both of our countries and make sure these women and children are being treated as the victims that they really are,”Klobuchar said. “We also need to focus on strengthening our partnership in the fight against the growing heroin epidemic, which is taking lives and hurting communities across Minnesota.”
“Human trafficking – including sex and labor trafficking – is a grave problem both abroad and in our own backyard,” said Heitkamp. “This trip will enable us to learn about the actions Mexico is taking to stop these horrific crimes, and help us as we work to address them in North Dakota and around the nation. As a former Attorney General, I understand many of the actions that we can take on national and state levels, and I’m interested in learning about how Mexico is working on this issue. We will also discuss our continued efforts to combat the use of heroin, which has recently increased in North Dakota putting too many lives at risk.”
“As a border state, Arizona faces particular challenges with international trafficking. I am pleased to join Senators Klobuchar and Heitkamp to meet with Mexican officials and look at additional ways we can work with those in Mexico who are committed to helping reduce the flow of both sex and labor trafficked victims from all over the world that are being trafficked through Mexico into the United States,” McCain said. “Arizona is on the cusp of passing legislation that will increase penalties for traffickers and give prosecutors more tools when going after those who traffic vulnerable minors. The legislation came out of recommendations from the Governor’s Task Force on Human Trafficking, which I co-chair. It will improve the situation in Arizona, but there is so much more to be done. I look forward to continuing to work with Senators Klobuchar and Heitkamp on this critical issue both nationally and internationally.”
Klobuchar recently introduced bipartisan legislation cosponsored by Heitkamp that would give prosecutors tools to crack down on domestic minor sex trafficking and ensure victims of these horrific crimes receive the support they need. The Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act is modeled after Minnesota’s “Safe Harbor” laws that help ensure minors sold for sex aren’t prosecuted as criminals but are instead treated as victims. The bill also allows victims of sex trafficking to participate in the Job Corps program to help them get back on their feet, and would create a National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking to encourage cooperation among all the federal, state, and local agencies that work on this problem. A full summary of the Senators’ legislation can be found here. Klobuchar has also partnered with Cindy McCain to combat sex trafficking at the Super Bowl, which is in Arizona next year. Klobuchar and McCain met with the National Football League (NFL) earlier this year to discuss their efforts.
To help address the growing heroin epidemic that is devastating communities all across the country, Klobuchar has urged the DEA to step up its interdiction efforts at the Mexican border and work with state and local law enforcement to combat the problem. Coming from Mexico up I-35 or through Chicago, Minnesota has some of the cheapest and purest heroin in the country that has led to a deadly spike in abuse. In 2013, there were 54 deaths caused by heroin overdoses in Hennepin County. Hospital emergency departments visits for heroin have nearly tripled from 2004 to 2011. In the 7,000-person community of St. Francis, three young people have died of opiate-related overdoses since May.
Since becoming a U.S. Senator, Heitkamp is continuing the work she started as North Dakota’s Attorney General to combat human and sex trafficking. In addition to helping lead the charge to pass the Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act, Heitkamp has coordinated efforts with leaders in the field. In January, she met with Cindy McCain to strategize about efforts to combat sex and human trafficking. McCain has been at the forefront of working to reduce human trafficking in Arizona, throughout the United States, and around the world.
Last year, 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 Heitkamp asked the Committee 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.