Herrera Beutler votes for measures House passes to curb sex trafficking

By Lauren Dake, Columbian political writer

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U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Friday voting in favor of a package of measures aimed at curbing sex trafficking and helping the victims of such crimes.

Herrera Beutler noted in a release to the media there have been several high-profile cases of trafficking in the local region.

Earlier this month, a 17-year-old Camas teenager went missing and was thought to be a victim of human trafficking. The young woman was found, and there is an investigation into her disappearance. This spring, The Columbian reported on a Vancouver woman who played a role in the prostitution of two teenage girls and was sentenced to a decade in prison.

The measures passed by the U.S. House — now heading to the Senate — would allow Department of Justice grants to fund emergency housing for victims of trafficking. The package of bills also aim to ensure states have updated policies on child welfare and identify resources to help train employees of such departments to spot possible cases of human trafficking.

Another one of the bills would promote transition foster children more quickly into adoptive homes.

"The bills we passed give the professionals who are entrusted with caring for these kids the resources and training they need to better identify when a child has become a victim and to help give them appropriate care," Herrera Beutler said in a statement. "We also begin to address the need for emergency housing for those children who have been successfully removed from trafficking. As we continue to fight to stop this crime, we also need to help former victims regain structure and normalcy in their lives."

Kay Vail, a Clark County juvenile probation counselor, said sex trafficking in the region is more prevalent than people would assume. She noted that the package would also help tap existing grants to create housing for victims of trafficking, adding that there's a need for such housing in Clark County.

"One of the greatest needs we have once we get trafficking victims away from their exploiters is safe housing," Vail said in a statement. "These kids often need to be removed from their environment and have a safe place to go receive restorative care."