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Klobuchar, Heitkamp head to Mexico to take on sex trafficking

MEXICO CITY – U.S. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp and Amy Klobuchar are spending part of Congress’ recess in Mexico, hoping to bring back ideas on how to crack down on sex trafficking.

Both senators have made sex trafficking – particularly involving minors – a big issue, but it’s a hard one to quantify.

Local law enforcement and the senators themselves say it’s happening in the Fargo-Moorhead area. Across the U.S., an estimated 100,000 children are forced into sex trafficking every year. They come to the United States on boats from Asia, they’re pulled out of American Indian reservations, or taken out of local communities and groomed for sex trades, said Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat.

But Mexico, she said, is one country “we’re deeply concerned about” – not just as an origin of sex trafficking but as a thoroughfare for other victims shuttled to the United States from the rest of Central and South America.

During their trip, Heitkamp and Klobuchar will meet with the attorney general of Mexico, Mexico’s undersecretary for North America and many local organizations to learn “how we can work more collaboratively to protect victims of human trafficking and sex crimes,” Heitkamp said.

“This is an opportunity to focus on how we can work with Mexico to combat sex trafficking head-on in both of our countries and make sure these women and children are being treated as the victims that they really are,” Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, said in a news release.

In November, Klobuchar introduced a bill in Congress that law enforcement officials and county prosecutors said would help them pull minors out of abusive situations and crack down on pimps and prostitution rings. Heitkamp and several other senators are co-sponsoring the proposed legislation.

In an interview, Heitkamp said she and Klobuchar understand it’s important that minors forced into prostitution be treated as victims – not criminals. They also understand the difficulty of getting those victims to help prosecutors as witnesses.

The pair is traveling with Cindy McCain, a vocal advocate of taking on human trafficking and the wife of John McCain, Arizona senator and former presidential candidate.

Both senators arrived in Mexico on Monday and will return to the U.S. Wednesday. The three-day trip is being paid for by the U.S. Department of State.

Kyle Potter, INFORUM

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