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CongressHOUSTON- Recently, the Rod Paige Education Building Auditorium played host to the official House Congressional Homeland Security committee field hearing “Combating Human Trafficking in Our Major Cities”. Law enforcement officials Adrian Garcia, Harris County Sheriff; Steven McGraw, director, Texas Department of Public Safety; Brian Moskowitz, Houston Special Agent in Charge Immigration Customs and Enforcement, U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Ann Johnson, assistant district attorney, Harris County; and Charles McClelland, chief, Houston Police Department testified before the committee chaired by Michael McCaul, ranking member Sheila Jackson Lee, Al Green, Gene Green, Ted Poe, and Blake Farenthold to help them better understand human trafficking in major U.S. cities, specifically Houston.

“Human trafficking is hidden under a veil of underreporting,” McCraw said. “I can tell you how many vehicles were stolen in the cities of Houston, Dallas and San Antonio, but no one can tell you how many times children were prostituted on the streets of these cities.”

Sheriff Garcia recommended that passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill, legislation supporting victims of human trafficking, and clearly defined laws spelling out human trafficking versus human smuggling would aid in reducing and prosecuting this horrific crime.

The same factors that make Houston attractive for commerce and growth, e.g., international airport and shipping port, I-10 and US-59 corridors that stretch across coasts and countries, as well as the constantly expanding population and labor, also make it a “perfect storm” for human trafficking.

Chief McClelland noted that he recently authorized the formation of a Houston Police Department Human Trafficking Unit.

Of particular concern to the committee was the recent discovery of 110 individuals held against their will for ransom in southwest Houston.

 “We must and we can solve the problem of human trafficking. We must recognize that human trafficking is a problem ‘hiding in plain sight’ that needs direct action. Too many of our major cities are being used by human traffickers to buy and sell humans as chattels,” Congressman Al Green said. “An important first step in addressing this issue in the U.S. is reforming our immigration system such that traffickers can no longer breach our borders and exploit the fear of reporting dastards.”