Remarks as prepared for delivery.
Thank you, Patrick, for that introduction, and thanks to all of you for joining us to grapple with the civil rights crisis of human trafficking.
Human trafficking is often referred to as modern-day slavery. Trafficking victims are denied their freedom. They are forced to live at the mercy of their traffickers and often endure horrific psychological and physical abuse. They are treated as commodities that can be bought, used, and sold not just once, but over and over.
Combatting this evil is one of our top priorities at the Justice Department. As you will hear throughout the day, we are tackling it with our law enforcement tools, our financial resources, and our partnerships with state and local law enforcement, industry, service providers, and the public.
Last year alone, DOJ obtained convictions for nearly 500 defendants in sex and labor trafficking cases. In a single nationwide operation last fall, we freed 84 children.
We are also dedicating DOJ grant funding to anti-trafficking efforts -- over $47 million in 2017.
Some of these funds allow service providers to help trafficking survivors on the long road to recovery. Funding these services is not just the right thing to do for the victim – it also supports our prosecutors because a safe and stable victim is more likely to be available to testify against the trafficker.
DOJ’s grant funds also provide training for state and local law enforcement in how to identify victims – training that we know has resulted in the identification and rescue of real victims.
Of course, it isn’t enough for law enforcement to be aware of the problem. We need the eyes and ears of other government agencies at all levels, of industry, and of the public. We need the help of the media in shining a light on human trafficking.
If everyone from flight attendants to hotel clerks to truck drivers to ER doctors learns the signs of trafficking, we will rescue more victims and bring more traffickers to justice.
During today’s Summit, you will hear from representatives of law enforcement, victim-service organizations, and industry. Our hope is that by bringing together this diverse group, we will all learn from each other and strengthen partnerships that help us fight human trafficking.
At the Department of Justice, our focus on human trafficking would not be possible without leadership at the top. I’m delighted that both Attorney General Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein are with us today. Both of them are committed to continuing and strengthening the Department’s anti-trafficking efforts.
At this time, I would like to introduce the Attorney General, who is our keynote speaker this morning. Attorney General Sessions has dedicated his career to public service. He was a federal prosecutor for 14 years, 12 of those as the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. He also served as the Attorney General of Alabama – the chief law enforcement officer of that state. After serving for 20 years as a United States Senator, he was confirmed as the 84th Attorney General of the United States last February. Please join me in welcoming Attorney General Sessions.