Heard on the Hill

As Super Bowl LIV draws near, Congress still tackling one of the event’s biggest problems

Florida Rep. Donna E. Shalala leads human trafficking hearing ahead of the big game in Miami

Katherine Fernandez Rundle, state attorney for Miami-Dade County, flanked by Rodney Barreto, chairman of the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee, and Kathy Andersen, executive director of The Women’s Fund Miami-Dade, addresses the media in Miami on Nov. 6 as they unveil a campaign by local, state and federal agencies and partners meant to combat sex trafficking leading up to and beyond Super Bowl LIV. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images file photo)

The question of whether the Super Bowl attracts higher volumes of human trafficking in its host city has long been debated. At the least, it provides a megaplatform, and opportunity, for awareness.

“We do have a comprehensive approach for Miami-Dade, and that’s been put together over the years, but the advantage of the Super Bowl for us is to educate the entire community,” Rep. Donna E. Shalala told HOH.

Shalala, the former president of the University of Miami who served as Health and Human Services secretary during the Clinton administration, was invited by fellow Florida Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, chairman of the Rules Committee’s Subcommittee on Legislative and Budget Process, to lead Wednesday’s hearing on human trafficking ahead of the largest sporting event taking place in her district.

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With less than two months to go until the big game at Hard Rock Stadium on Feb. 2, committee members took the opportunity Wednesday to hear testimony on the seemingly growing epidemic surrounding the occasion.

“While we have been preparing for the surge this event may bring, we could use more help,” Miami-Dade County attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle told Shalala and committee members, including Rules Chairman Jim McGovern and Georgia Rep. Rob Woodall, whose state hosted last year’s Super Bowl.

“We fear traffickers will be coming to our city to make money,” Fernandez Rundle conceded.

The United States has one of the “highest rates” of human trafficking in the world, which “increases in local communities that are home to major events and heavy tourism,” Hastings said in a release.

Hastings sponsored the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Prevention Training Act of 2019.

Shalala said the goal of Wednesday’s hearing was listening to the experts. “It’s not a matter of just educating law enforcement or the schools,” she told HOH. “Every part of our society has to be involved, and we need a level of services that we’ve never had before in this country.”

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