Smucker joins bipartisan effort to combat human trafficking

'It's happening all across America,' lawmaker says

WASHINGTON - A Berks County congressman is joining some of his fellow lawmakers in working to find solutions to human trafficking.

Republican U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker said Thursday that he has joined a bipartisan effort to combat the crime by cosponsoring a pair of bills to help fight online sex trafficking and to help victims clear their names of any wrongdoing.

"It's uncomfortable to talk about, but we can't shy away from talking about the fact that in the world today, young boys and girls are being sold across the globe for an average price of $90, and it's not just in remote parts of the globe," Smucker said in a speech on the House floor. "More than 14,000 people are trafficked into the United States each year. It's happening all across America, and in Lancaster, Berks, and Chester counties, the district that I represent in Pennsylvania."

The effort comes just several months after the most recent case of alleged human trafficking in Berks County was revealed with the arrest of a Reding man.

Nathaniel Pagan stands accused of assaulting and forcing multiple women to have sex against their will for money. Some of victims described having to depend on him for food and clothing, officials said.

"Four out of five people trafficked in the world today are trafficked for sexual exploitation. Eighty percent are female and half are children," Smucker said. "Anti-trafficking groups gather in our churches, restaurants, and schools all across Pennsylvania and the country. Those individuals, and the victims of trafficking, should know that they have allies in Congress."

Smucker said he has spoken about the issue with law enforcement agencies and other organizations in the 16th District, including Reading-based Safe Berks, formerly Berks Women in Crisis, which provides a safe haven and ongoing support system for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Combating human trafficking has also been at the forefront of Ivanka Trump's agenda as an assistant to her father. She met in Rome on Wednesday with human trafficking victims, and at the White House last week, she led a roundtable discussion on the issue with a bipartisan group of lawmakers and representatives of several organizations that deal with human trafficking. She spoke about the Trump administration's efforts to combat the problem in the United States and around the world.

U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello, both of whom also represent Berks County in Congress, are also cosponsors of the bill to help victims clear their names of any wrongdoing. Meehan is a former federal prosecutor.

The 16th District includes Reading and some of the city's suburbs.


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