Rep. Chris Smith to Introduce Federal Child Trafficking Legislation Drafted in Collaboration with ‘Sound of Freedom’ Producer

August 1, 2023 The Ohio Star

Susan Berry, PhD

U.S. Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) announced Friday in advance of Sunday’s World Day Against Trafficking in Persons that he is planning to introduce legislation that would require the federal government to provide reports on its work investigating potential child trafficking related to the unaccompanied minors released from federal custody and with whom contact has now been lost.

“In the near future, I will be introducing new legislation drafted in collaboration with Eduardo Verastegui—the producer of ‘Sound of Freedom’ and Roger Severino of The Heritage Foundation,” Smith said in a press statement sent to The Star News Network, further detailing that the legislation would “require the federal government to report on efforts to locate, establish contact with, conduct wellness checks on, and investigate any suspicion of human trafficking related to the approximately 85,000 unaccompanied minors who were released from federal government custody and with whom subsequent contact has been lost.”

The announcement comes just two weeks after the producer of the Sound of Freedom, the blockbuster film that exposes the sinister world of child trafficking, shared during a podcast interview that he had hoped his film would start “a movement” to end the trafficking of children for sexual exploitation.

Sound of Freedom tells the true-life story of Tim Ballard, a former government agent who left his job to rescue a little girl from sex traffickers in the Columbian jungle.

Ballard, who is played in the film by actor Jim Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ), ultimately created Operation Underground Railroad, an organization that rescued over 120 victims – including some children as young as 11 years old – during just one mission.

During a recent interview with Verastegui and Ballard on the Timcast IRL podcast, the Mexican filmmaker explained that, when he learned from Ballard how traffickers use children for sex and then sell their organs when they are no longer “fresh meat,” he decided, “You cannot look the other way around anymore.”

“You have to do something,” Verastegui said. “And I knew at that time, and [director] Alejandro [Monteverde], as well, that we had to do something … we’re filmmakers, we have a weapon of mass instruction and inspiration, right? Well, let’s make a movie. Because movies move people and media influence how people think.”

Verastegui shared what he discussed with Ballard prior to producing the film:

This is a global problem, right? Yes. Especially U.S. and Mexico. U.S. is the number one consumer of child sex. Mexico, number one provider. Okay, okay, Tim. You live in the most powerful country in the world. You have the technology, the intelligence, the money, the, you know, the army, the police everything. How come we don’t finish this problem in the United States? And [Tim] said because it’s not a priority. It’s not a priority. We are not the solution. I can be the solution for one child, for 1000 or 3000. We’re talking about millions of children around the world that are kidnapped for sexual exploitation. We need a movement! And that’s when I realized, hold on a second. You know, a movie has the potential to start a movement. So, let’s make a movie.

“Tragically, on any given day, 27.6 million people across the world are enslaved in forced labor or sex trafficking,” Smith said in his remarks. “This heinous crime—which exploits, enslaves and attacks the dignity of the human person—has no place in our society. While much progress has been made to combat it, more needs to be done. We must do everything we can to stop the normalization of the abuse and exploitation of people for profit.”

In 2000, Smith’s Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act became law.

“Though it is hard to believe now, my legislation—which was bipartisan—was met with a wall of skepticism and opposition—dismissed by many as a solution in search of a problem,” the congressman said. “For most people at that time—including lawmakers—the term trafficking applied almost exclusively to drugs and weapons, not human beings.”

“Reports of vulnerable persons—especially women and children—being reduced to commodities for sale were often met with surprise, incredulity, or indifference,” Smith added, noting that the federal government must have “a special focus on human trafficking at our border—especially involving children.”

Smith cited statistics from U.S. Customs and Border Protection underscoring that “at least 345,000 children have crossed the United States border unaccompanied since early 2021.”

“The Department of Health and Human Services—which is responsible for the well-being of these migrant children through repatriation or placement in safe homes—has lost contact with as many as 85,000 of these children after placing them with sponsors in the United States,” he reported.

Pointing to his work in drafting the legislation as the work of Ballard is revealed in Sound of Freedom, Smith said the former Homeland Security agent’s “heroic lifesaving work rescuing children from the extreme cruelty of sex trafficking— almost always at great physical risk to himself and his colleagues—is the stuff of legends.”

“It will take each and every one of us to end this modern-day slavery—we must each be aware, educated, and act to prevent this crime, protect victims, and prosecute traffickers,” he asserted.

Last week, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy hosted a screening of the film to which members of both parties were invited.

However, as conservative author and host Mark Levin observed, “not a single Democrat congressman” attended the showing.

Image: Roger Severino of the Heritage Foundation; Eduardo Verastegui, actor and producer of “Sound of Freedom”; and Rep. Christopher Smith, R-New Jersey, at a screening of the movie on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Credit: Martin Barillas/CNA

Rep. Chris Smith to Introduce Federal Child Trafficking Legislation Drafted in Collaboration with ‘Sound of Freedom’ Producer – The Ohio Star