The President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (PITF) is a group of 15 government agencies specifically focused on combating human trafficking. The Task Force is a Cabinet-level entity, consisting of 15 departments and agencies, working to prosecute traffickers and protect survivors.
[Transcript] Indian Treaty Room – 2:20 P.M. EDT – THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Please. Thank you very much. Thank you. It’s a great honor. Thank you very much. Thank you to Ivanka for the wonderful introduction. She knows me well. And also, very importantly, on the tremendous work you’ve done on this on behalf of human trafficking victims and survivors all over the world. Very important subject.
And incredibly, with the age of the computer, it’s gotten worse and worse and worse every year. And we’re going to turn that around.
This is an urgent humanitarian issue. My administration is committed to leveraging every resource we have to confront this threat, to support the victims and survivors, and to hold traffickers accountable for their heinous crimes.
Before going any further today, I’d like to provide an update on Hurricane Michael, which made landfall along Florida’s great Panhandle. Incredible people in the Panhandle, and they went through a lot. Followed a really destructive path; then to Georgia and North and South Carolina.
Our prayers are with those who lost their lives and with their families. And our hearts are with the thousands who have sustained property damage — in many cases entirely wiped out — the many families who have been displaced and the businesses that have been affected by this devastating hurricane.
All residents should heed all local warnings and instructions. My administration is in constant contact with state and local authorities in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. FEMA and first responders are on the ground, and we have teams currently conducting search and rescue missions — by the way, the Coast Guard has been incredible; they’ve saved many lives — working to restore power and delivering needed supplies.
We will do everything in our power to help those in need. And we will not rest or waver until the job is done and the recovery is complete. The only thing we can say about Michael with certainty is that it was so fast, it went through like a bullet, but it was a devastating bullet. It was complete. It was winds about as big as we’ve ever seen in history. We’ve never had anything like this.
So I just want to thank everybody for working so hard and for FEMA, and first responders, and law enforcement. They have been incredible. Incredible. Thank you very much.
Today we’re gathered together for a truly important mission: ending the scourge of human trafficking.
Joining us are top officials from across our government who are deeply engaged in this effort. Also, Senator Rob Portman is with us someplace. Rob, thank you very much for coming.
I’d like to just introduce a few of the people that have worked so hard: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Secretary Nielsen. Secretary, thank you. Good job. I know you’re working very hard on this. Ryan Zinke. Ryan, thank you. Thank you. Alex Acosta. Thank you very much. Rod Rosenstein. Thank you, Rod. Alex Azar. Thank you very much. Great job you’re doing. Thank you, Alex. Elaine Chao. Thank you, Elaine. And Betsy DeVos. Thank you. Thank you very much.
Along with Ambassadors Nikki Haley — and what a job you’ve done. Thank you very much, Nikki. And you know how we feel. Bob Lighthizer. Thanks, Bob. Dan Coats. And Director Chris Wray. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Chris, very much. Appreciate it very much. You really — you’re making big difference and you’ll make an even bigger different because we’re making it a lot easier for you now. We’re going to give you what you need to get this done — as much as you can. It’s a tough one.
Thank you as well to Representative Ann Wagner who has been a great leader in the fight against human trafficking. Thank you, Ann, very much. Thank you very much.
Most importantly, I want to thank the courageous survivors of human trafficking for joining us today. From the beginning of my administration, I promised we would direct the full might and force of the United States government to combat the sinister crime of trafficking. And that is exactly what we are doing.
We’re working to aggressively target traffickers and to protect the victims of this inhumane abuse. In my first month in office, I signed an executive order directing federal law enforcement to prioritize dismantling the criminal organizations that engage in human trafficking. I later hosted survivors and experts here at the White House on numerous occasions for a conversation about how we can strengthen and improve our nation’s anti-trafficking efforts.
Since the time and since that moment — very first moment — we’ve really made tremendous strides. We’re challenging foreign regimes that facilitate this horrible evil of sex trafficking and forced labor. And we’re working to take down the criminal organizations that illegally traffic drugs and people across our border, exploiting them for their own gain. And we are pursuing criminal charges against those who perpetrate these monstrous acts and deeds.
Last year, my administration prosecuted a record number of traffickers. The Department of Health and Human Services National Human Trafficking Hotline received over 8,500 reports of potential trafficking last year. And our brave heroes at ICE have made over 1,600 human trafficking arrests. They do a great job.
I have signed several anti-trafficking bills into law, including a landmark law championed by Representative Wagner. And, Representative, where are you? Please. Fantastic job, Ann. Thank you very much. Really appreciate it. To help states and victims to fight online sex trafficking.
Under this law, victims can now bring civil suits against websites involved in sex trafficking — it’s so important — so you can bring civil suits against these websites, and states can bring criminal charges. These provisions complement existing laws that the Department of Justice used to seize and shut down Backpage.com, the Internet’s leading forum for traffickers, earlier this year. Good job, Rod. Really good job.
We also included tough forced-labor provisions in the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement — USMCA, as it’s known. Great agreement. And we are taking the lead to combat this crime internationally, having invested millions in the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery. If you can believe that title — it’s to end modern slavery.
This is just a brief overview of our government-wide effort to smash these criminal networks and to help victims rebuild their lives.
Every Cabinet member here today and every member of this presidential taskforce is fully engaged in the fight. It’s very important to every one of them.
Our country will not rest until we have put these vile organizations out of business, and rescued every last victim. And we will not stop until we have stamped out the menace of human trafficking once and for all.
Again, I want to thank everybody for the incredible job you’re doing, for your good work. So important. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you everybody. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you.