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Sex Trafficking

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Uber

Sex Trafficking

Congressman Ted Poe
Congressional Record: 115th Congress
12 January 2017

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from 
Texas (Mr. Poe) for 5 minutes.
  Mr. POE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, recently in Sacramento, California, 
Uber driver Keith Avila picked up three passengers. They were two women 
and what looked like to him to be a very young girl, about 12 years of 
age. The ride would be short. The total fare was only $8.
  The young girl, sitting in the front seat with him, was dressed 
inappropriately in such a short skirt. Here is what he said about her:

       You could see all of her legs, and it struck me as odd 
     because she was so very young.

  What happened next was even more disturbing to him. One of the women 
passengers in the vehicle said to the young girl in a controlling, 
coaching voice:

       First thing you do, you ask this question: Do you have any 
     weapons? When you're hugging him, just ask, ``Do you have any 
     weapons?'' Pat him down. Pat him down while you're hugging on 
     him. Get the money first. Before you start touching him, go 
     in there, get the money first.

  Avila, a father himself, knew something was not right about that 
conversation. The two older women taking a girl inappropriately dressed 
to a hotel, talking about exchanging money, did not make sense to him.
  This had the hallmark of sex trafficking. He later said to police:

       I was 100 percent sure I knew what was happening.

  So Avila dropped off the three individuals at the Holiday Inn Express 
and immediately called the police, even though he didn't have to. He 
alerted them that there was a child sex trafficking occurring right 
under their noses.
  The two alleged women traffickers were later identified as 25-year-
old Destiny Pettway and 31-year-old Maria Westley. They now have been 
charged with pimping and threatening a minor. The buyer, 20-year-old 
Disney Vang, was also arrested and charged by the police with 
soliciting a child prostitute.
  Mr. Speaker, this girl turned out to be 16 years of age, but her life 
was saved because of this individual, Mr. Avila.
  Elk County Police Officer Chris Trim said it best:

       He could've said nothing, went on his way, collected his 
     fare, and then that child victim would have been victimized 
     again by who knows how many different people over the next 
     days, weeks, or even months.

  Mr. Speaker, America cannot ignore sex trafficking in this country. 
Individuals, citizens, no matter who they are, need to be able to 
recognize what is taking place amongst sex trafficking.
  What happened in Sacramento with this child is not an isolated 
incident. This incident just happened to end well because someone saw 
something and said something.
  Last Congress, we took the historic step of passing several pieces of 
comprehensive, bipartisan trafficking legislation, supported by most 
Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
  One of those bills was my own and Carolyn Maloney's, the Justice for 
Victims of Trafficking Act. This bill did a number of things, but most 
importantly, it went after the root problem: the demand, the customer 
that buys minors on the marketplace of sex trafficking.
  The bill did a lot of other things to help promote the enforcement of 
the sex trafficking laws in America. The Justice for Victims of 
Trafficking Act also went after the trafficker as well as rescuing the 
victim, and, of course, it prosecuted the buyers.
  The bill also set up a fund to pay for grants to help the victims and 
victim shelters and to educate police. The fund is funded by money that 
goes into that fund by fees, ordered by Federal judges. In other words, 
let the criminals pay the rent on the courthouse and pay for the system 
that they have created and help fund shelters and police training to 
recognize the trafficking that takes place.
  The enforcement of the bill is taking place throughout the country. 
Going after human sex trafficking is something that this country needs 
to recognize, and we need to be able to recognize it when we are 
individuals, law enforcement, and Members of the House of 
Representatives as well.
  Sex trafficking takes place not only on the individual basis, but at 

[[Page H394]]

events such as the Super Bowl and the Final Four. Just this week, the 
Department of Homeland Security had a briefing for Members of the Texas 
delegation on the Super Bowl, talking about the security that will be 
implemented in Houston. It was quite impressive. But during that 
briefing for Members of Congress--and I see two of them here, Mr. Al 
Green and Mr. Farenthold, who were at that briefing--they talked about 
how probably sex trafficking will be at that location, and how they are 
going to try to prevent it.
  It is quite impressive, the Blue Campaign that is taking place by the 
Department of Homeland Security. We are going to be ready for those 
people who want to try to promote sex trafficking in Houston because of 
the Super Bowl, making sure that there is not going to be sex 
trafficking in our town, in our country, and that our children are not 
for sale.
  So it is important that we recognize it when we see it, and it is 
because of awareness of citizens like Mr. Avila that America is turning 
the tide and making sure that we enforce our sex trafficking laws.
  And that is just the way it is.

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