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Members of Congress have introduced a bipartisan bill named for American abolitionist Frederick Douglass that would seek to curb human trafficking.
The new legislation, titled the “Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Act of 2017,” is co-sponsored by New Jersey Republican Rep. Chris Smith and California Democrat Rep. Karen Bass.
Seven other sponsors have put their support behind the bill, which would reauthorize $130 million in funding to stop human trafficking and provide aid to victims.
“It is an honor to commemorate Frederick Douglass with this legislation, highlighting his unending dedication to the prevention and eradication of slavery,” Smith said in a statement.
Smith previously authored the "Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000."
Ken Morris, the great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass and co-founder of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiative — co-founded in 2007 by descendants of Douglass and Booker T. Washington with the intention of ending modern day slavery — told NBC News this bill has come about at the perfect time.
"Douglass’ bicentennial is in 2018 and as our current president said on February 1, Frederick Douglass has done amazing things," Morris said. "And whether that’s past tense or present tense we agree because the spirit of Frederick Douglass is with us today, and we are so honored this act is named for him."
In addition to providing tools to U.S. departments to combat the problem, the bill will also provide: Education to susceptible minors, who could be vulnerable to traffickers; incentivize to hotels to train staff to spot the signs of trafficking; require airlines to train pilots and flight attendants on spotting trafficking; encourages survivors to work with the government to prevent trafficking.
In 2016, nearly 2,000 traffickers were arrested and more than 400 victims were identified, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
However, the scope of the problem is hard to quantify due to the silent, pervasive nature of human trafficking. The Department of Homeland Security is unable to keep metrics on human trafficking due to this fact.
Morris told said he believes if his great-great-great grandfather was here today, he would still be fighting for the freedom of all people.
"[He would] still be fighting injustice, and I know that he is honored and smiling down upon us all today to know that Rep. Smith has named this bill for him,” Morris said.
Morris said the measure to end human trafficking should be a priority of the Trump administration. Earlier this week, Trump mentioned human trafficking and that his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border would help curb the problem. However, experts are unsure of this.
"We’re talking about human slavery," Morris said. "We’re talking about men, women, and children that are living in conditions that are as horrific as a slavery that my ancestors endured. As a human rights issues and people all over the world — this should definitely be a priority for this administration.”
The bill will be heard before members of the Committee on Foreign Affairs on May 2.