WASHINGTON — Human trafficking is one of the largest and fastest growing crimes in the world. In Washington, lawmakers are addressing the issue head on, voting on 13 pieces of legislation this week aimed at bringing an end to modern day slavery.
It's estimated that more than 20 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking, with cases reported in every state in the U.S.
"So many times you find it around the world, but it's right here in America. They had more than 7,000 cases just last year reported," House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said.
This week, Congress zeroed in on the issue, passing a number of bills aimed at protecting victims and increasing punishments for convicted offenders.
A top priority is dealing with legal loopholes that predators take advantage of to avoid being convicted.
Republican Rep. Martha Roby's Global Child Protection Act would close those loopholes.
"Under the current definitions, it does deal with people who travel abroad to have sex with children, but the definitions don't include people who travel abroad to force children to do sexual acts on them," the Alabama lawmaker told CBN News.
"It's these types of unintended loopholes in the criminal code where Congress can change the law," she said.
And Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., is also offering a measure that would prevent criminals from getting away on a technicality.
"If there's any wrongdoer worthy of the full measure of our law, it's one who seeks out young children for their own use, that's a horrible depraved thing and we need to act accordingly," Johnson told CBN News.
Johnson's bill deals with a 2015 case where a man who recorded a sexual assault on a child was able to escape a federal conviction.
"There's a provision where the courts have said if a predator has sexual activity with a minor and they record any of those images on their phone, their smart phone, other devices, and they didn't intend to record them, then somehow they'd be able to evade prosecution," he told CBN News.
"We think that's outrageous," he charged. "It's a violation of Congress's obvious intent to protect the most defenseless among us."
And it doesn't stop there.
Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., put forth The Protecting Young Victims From Sexual Abuse Act that addresses the recent sexual abuse of USA Olympic gymnasts. The bill will require amateur athletic bodies to promptly report suspected cases of sexual abuse.
Other bills, like Rep. Ann Wagner's Put Trafficking Victims First Act, make sure victims are never mistaken for criminals, and encourages states to refrain from referring to child sex trafficking victims as "child prostitutes" or "underage sex workers."
"We need to stop the trafficking, but at the same time, we need to be there for the survivors and what they go through," House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told CBN News. "We got to be able to support them, get them back in the work force and give them the care that they need."
People from both sides of the aisle are involved in the efforts, and almost all the bills are expected to pass with strong bipartisan support. McCarthy hopes these bills will be fast tracked through the Senate to the president's desk.
"I hope that people look at the need for this. It's happening in every state; it's happening in every community, and this is a place we can actually do something very strong and very good with, that the momentum will actually move it faster," McCarthy told CBN News.
And in the White House, first daughter Ivanka Trump is making human trafficking a priority, hosting roundtables of lawmakers to discuss legislative ways the U.S. can help and meeting with victims while overseas in Rome.
The House plans to take up the issue again in July, voting on more bills to protect victims and empower law enforcement with the resources they need to bring an end to this growing problem.