Good afternoon, everyone. Before we begin, I want to take a moment to address the shooting of a police officer this morning in Orlando. Master Sergeant Debra Clayton, a 17-year veteran of the Orlando Police Department, was shot and killed this morning by an individual evading arrest on murder charges. During the subsequent search for the shooter, a deputy sheriff with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, whose name has not been released, was killed in an auto accident as part of the pursuit. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Middle District of Florida is in regular contact with our local counterparts. The FBI, ATF and U.S. Marshals Service are all actively assisting with the search for the perpetrator. We will continue to offer any and all assistance to our state and local partners as they continue to investigate this devastating incident.
These tragic deaths make clear the great risks that our brave men and women in uniform face each and every day, and the deep and abiding gratitude that our nation owes them for their service. As they are responding to events in their community, they are often the first on the scene of dangerous events – as we saw when they responded to the shootings at the Fort Lauderdale Airport last Friday, when five innocent people lost their lives to a gunman. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Wilfredo Ferrer, is here with me today, and his office filed federal charges in that matter on Saturday.
My thoughts and prayers – and those of my colleagues at the Department of Justice – are with the families and loved ones of those lost and wounded in these tragic events.
Thank you, Alexandra Gelber, for that warm introduction. And thank you, Hilary Axam, for your devoted leadership of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit (HTPU). 2017 marks 10 years since HTPU was founded. The tireless work of the men and women in that unit have ensured that our human trafficking enforcement programs are stronger than ever. I know HTPU works closely with many of the people in this room, and I am so pleased that all of you – leaders on this issue not just from Main Justice, but from all over the country – are here with us today.
Human trafficking is one of the most devastating crimes we confront. It embodies the intolerable beliefs that human beings can bought and sold like commodities, and that the most vulnerable members of our society should be exploited, not protected. Those beliefs are odious, running contrary to our nation’s dearest principles. That is why the work to combat this pernicious crime has been one of my top priorities as Attorney General, and that is why it must remain at the forefront of the department’s efforts as we move forward.
One important lesson we have learned – and highlighted – throughout this administration is that we are more effective in this fight when we work together. Our coalition includes other federal agencies; our counterparts in state, local and tribal governments; legal and social services organizations that assist survivors; and, course, survivors themselves, who provide valuable insights into the challenges we confront. And it has been our mission to ensure that these interdisciplinary collaborations become part of the DNA of the Department of Justice. One way we have done so is by bolstering the Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team Initiative – or ACTeam Initiative – which we launched in 2011 to streamline and coordinate interagency human trafficking enforcement efforts. In 2015, we convened ACTeams in six new districts, building on the momentum and impact of the first six in bringing traffickers to justice and restoring survivors to lives of freedom and dignity. And we extended our collaborative efforts internationally, working with Mexican law enforcement to dismantle human trafficking enterprises operating across the U.S.-Mexico border.
We have also promoted a survivor-centered, trauma-informed approach to prosecuting these crimes. In the past two years, we have administered more than $38 million through the Enhanced Collaborative Model grant program for human trafficking task forces, funding collaborative anti-trafficking partnerships between law enforcement agencies and victim service providers. We have engaged with survivors, promoting their voices in our national dialogue and seeking out their expertise to inform the criminal justice response to human trafficking.
I am proud to announce that today, pursuant to the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, we are releasing the Department of Justice’s National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking. This document reflects input from every U.S. Attorney’s Office across the nation, which each developed a district-specific strategy to better help survivors and to target regional trafficking threats with greater precision. It summarizes the ongoing anti-trafficking work we are doing across many different parts of the department, and strengthens the coordination among them. And it encourages increased collaboration between the federal government and other partners—such as civil legal aid providers, professional associations and others—to build on our successes as we prepare to take on the work that remains.
That work is significant, but because of the committed efforts of people like you, I am confident that we are equal to the task ahead. So let me thank you for your partnership in advancing this cause. And let me also express my special gratitude to all of you who are here, who have done so much to guarantee that our work is focused, relentless, and effective. It has been an honor to stand with you as your Attorney General, and I look forward to all of the great work you will continue to do in the days ahead. Thank you.