Congressman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico’s Third District spoke on the House floor during debate on a number of bills aimed at combating human and sex trafficking. Luján highlighted the importance of protecting children from violence and the need to do the same for children who are fleeing extreme violence in Central America. Below are Luján’s remarks.
“I rise today in support of this legislation and many other bills we are considering that deal with human and sex trafficking – an important issue, a critical issue – especially as it relates to protecting children who are too often victims of abuse and violence, and I commend the Speaker for bringing these bills up for a vote.
“Mr. Speaker, as I was watching the debate this evening I couldn’t help but come back to the floor. I hope all of my colleagues that are speaking tonight on the importance of passing these human trafficking bills will join us next week to talk about the importance of protecting children. It was with alarm, Mr. Speaker, that I read a letter that Speaker Boehner penned to President Barack Obama – that appears that my Republican colleagues when they left the meeting earlier this afternoon, are asking to take away the very protections from children [from] a law that was passed in 2008 – [yet they] are asking to protect these children tonight.
“So I come today to ask my colleagues to read the transcripts, to hear the debate this evening, and to think about it – to go home this weekend and whatever faith that we may be, that we pray about it and we talk to our pastors and our religious leaders about it. Because these kids that we are going to be talking about next week are the very children that need protections as well.
“The motivation to pass these bills today is the same motivation that moved this body to pass legislation that became law in 2008 – to protect children. This law has since become the subject of much condemnation from many of my Republican colleagues as we discuss the humanitarian crisis on the border.
“We are here on this floor debating legislation to protect children, yet many of my colleagues want to take away due process from children who are trying to escape unimaginable violence in Central America. In Honduras, the murder capital of the world, the violence was captured in a story recently, and I apologize for the graphic nature of this story.
“The story that was reported on – ‘during a recent late-night visit to the San Pedro Sula morgue, more than 60 bodies, all victims of violence, were seen piled in a heap, each wrapped in a brown plastic bag. While picking bullets out of a 15-year-old boy shot 15 times, technicians discussed how they regularly received corpses of children under 10, and sometimes as young as 2. Last week, in nearby Santa Barbara, an 11-year-old had his throat slit by other children, because he did not pay a 50-cent extortion fee.’
“The doctor at the morgue said, before we saw children being killed because they were at the scene when gangs were coming to prey on families and they just happened to be there. Now we’re seeing kids kill kids. There are hundreds of other stories like this, of which I will ask to submit into the record with extraneous materials, but Mr. Speaker, I beg and I plead of my colleagues – each and every one of us that may or may not have been here when the law was passed, but those of us who are here now – these are kids. And I know that you and I, Mr. Speaker, that we love children and we want to make sure they are not victims of these horrific crimes.
“Please, please take this weekend and ask the Speaker [Boehner] to remove the provisions that would take away the due process from these children. And as we pass these bills together, let us not forget what brought this Congress together in 2008 to protect these children. Let us show the same compassion that is the driving force of these bills tonight.”