The Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill that strengthens the nation’s current human trafficking law and authorizes new funds for investigation and prosecution of domestic trafficking within the United States.

The measure, authored in the House by Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., provides $361 million over the next two years to combat trafficking, is expected to be signed by President Bush.

“With a crime as abhorrent as human trafficking, it is essential that the United States takes the lead and that includes within our own borders,” said Smith, “We must work to target the criminals – slaveholders – who force these young children and women into unimaginable horrors.”

Each year, an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders, and millions more are trafficked internally. Worldwide, more than 3,000 traffickers were convicted last year.

Smith’s bill reauthorizes and expands appropriations for anti-trafficking programs in the U.S. and abroad. For the first time, programs geared toward reducing the demand for commercial sex in the U.S. and preventing human trafficking of U.S. citizens within the country’s borders are authorized.

A report issued in 2004 estimated 10,000 people in the United States are being forced to work against their will under threat of violence.

Researchers found that almost half of forced laborers are in prostitution or the sex industry, close to a third are domestic workers, and one in 10 works in agriculture. And while examples of forced labor have been found in at least 90 cities in the United States, most are concentrated in states with large immigrant populations like California, Florida, New York and Texas.

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