WASHINGTON, D.C. (WLNS) – A bipartisan bill coauthored by Michigan Senator Gary Peters aims to strengthen federal efforts to combat human trafficking.
This bill pledges more resources to tackle human trafficking through a now permanent team in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
This comes as a Genesee County man faces several charges for allegedly trafficking a young woman.
Michael Barajas sits in the Genesee County jail as he faces seven charges, including human trafficking involving kidnapping or criminal sexual conduct.
Police said he picked up a 20-year-old woman last month after she was evicted from her home.
They said she was locked in a room tied to a bed and sexually assaulted for several weeks.
Jennifer McMahon with Child and Family Charities said research shows street homeless young people are the most at risk for falling victim.
“Within the first 24-72 hours, they are most ripe for being prayed upon by traffickers. They are very quickly identified, especially young people,” said McMahon.
Last year, a human trafficking survivor spoke with 6 News. She shared that while facing homelessness in Grand Rapids, she took an offer of help that led to an ordeal of drugging and sexual assault lasting months.
On Capitol Hill, officials with the Department of Homeland security could be getting further support.
The Countering Human Trafficking Act written by Michigan Democratic Senator Gary Peters and Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman cleared the house after passing in the senate back in April.
If signed into law, it will cement the department’s counter-human trafficking center while adding resources and special agents. It also will strengthen training initiatives for police departments.
McMahon said the bill reiterates the importance of cooperation between police, healthcare and advocates.
McMahon adds sometimes these situations start with online relationships.
Shari Montgomery, the founder of the House of Promise, which aims to help trafficking victims transition, said she’s glad to see further federal help on this issue, especially across party lines.