Local police vice officers, who lead the law-enforcement crackdown on prostitution, could have unwilling partners: FBI agents, says the Washington Post. The Justice Department is fighting legislation that would expand federal law to cover prostitution cases, saying that the move would divert agents from human trafficking crimes. Some anti-trafficking activists and members of Congress say the federal government should be involved in policing prostitution. “It’s mind-boggling that the Justice Department would be fighting” the bill, said Dorchen Leidholdt of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women. “They have the power to pick and choose the cases they want to prosecute. They don’t have to prosecute local pimps if they don’t want to.”
The new provision is part of a bill reauthorizing the federal human trafficking statute, which passed Congress in 2000 and helped trigger a worldwide fight against what many consider modern-day slavery. The House Foreign Affairs Committee this month approved the legislation, which has bipartisan support and is expected to be taken up by the full House next week. The debate comes amid questions over how many victims are trafficked into the United States. The government estimated in 1999 that about 50,000 slaves were arriving in the country every year. That estimate was revised downward in 2004 to 14,500 to 17,500 a year. Since 2000, and despite 42 Justice Department task forces and more than $150 million in federal dollars to find them, about 1,400 people have been certified as human trafficking victims in this country, a tiny fraction of the original estimates. The Justice Department now questions the 17,500 figure.