New Human Trafficking Laws Now Passed


Cindy McCain spoke out Wednesday not as a businesswoman or a politician’s wife but as a modern-day abolitionist, fighting human trafficking at a time when activists estimate more people are enslaved than at the pinnacle of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

McCain, who co-chairs the Arizona Task Force on Human Trafficking, joined a press call highlighting a newly released report from the Polaris Project. According to the report, 39 states have now passed updated, strong anti-trafficking laws.

By the Polaris Project’s rankings — which look at laws, advocacy efforts, victims’ assistance resources, law enforcement training and other factors — there are now also 32 states in the top tier for fighting human trafficking, up from 21 last year. New Jersey and Washington state ranked highest on the list, achieving perfect scores of 12, while South Dakota was the only state in the bottom of four tiers.

But the government officials and nonprofit advocates on Monday’s press call weren’t there to celebrate; they were pushing harder to change the still grim reality.

Some 15,000 people are trafficked into the U.S. each year for purposes of forced labor or sexual exploitation. Victims come from impoverished communities and seemingly safe suburbs. They might work in fake massage parlors, brothels, strip clubs or even nail salons, the Polaris Project reports.

McCain recalled shopping in a fabric store a few years ago in India and noticing children looking up at her through the gaps between the wooden floorboards.

“I could see all these little eyes looking up at me. It was very evident what was down there, and it was a lot of little girls,” she said. “The problem with this is that I walked out of that shop and I didn’t do anything, and it has haunted me ever since.”

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