The Justice Department is fighting legislation that would expand federal law to cover prostitution cases, saying that the move would divert agents from human trafficking crimes. Although local police still would handle the vast majority of cases, Justice officials said the law's passage would force them to bring cases in federal courts as well.
Some anti-trafficking activists and members of Congress say the federal government should be involved in policing prostitution. Prostitution is a social evil, they say, and increased law enforcement can only help the campaign against it.
"It's mind-boggling that the Justice Department would be fighting" the bill, said Dorchen Leidholdt, a founding board member of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, an activist group pushing the change. "They have the power to pick and choose the cases they want to prosecute. They don't have to prosecute local pimps if they don't want to."
The new provision is part of a bill reauthorizing the federal human trafficking statute, which passed Congress in 2000 and helped trigger a worldwide fight against what many consider modern-day slavery. The House Foreign Affairs Committee this month approved the legislation, which has bipartisan support and is expected to be taken up by the full House next week. Its prospects in the Senate are unclear...
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