President Bush is vowing strong action against those engaged in the practice known as human trafficking: luring people into forced labor or prostitution.
The stories are heartbreaking: children and teenagers sold into a modern form of slavery, some as forced labor, many more as prostitutes.
President Bush says the United States government cannot sit idly by while human traffickers take advantage of the young, the helpless and the poor.
"The trade in human beings continues in our time and we are called by conscience and compassion to bring this cruel practice to an end," said Mr. Bush.
The president spoke as he signed legislation setting aside more than $360 million over the next two years to fight human trafficking. The bill funds new programs to help the victims, as well as expanded efforts to find and prosecute those responsible for their plight.
"It takes a perverse form of evil to exploit and hurt those vulnerable members of society. Human traffickers operate with greed and without conscience, treating their victims as nothing more than goods and commodities for sale to the highest bidder," he added.
Mr. Bush said thousands of children and teenagers are smuggled into the United States each year and forced into what he called "sexual servitude." He said more money is being provided to state and local police to catch the traffickers, and go after the customers who keep this illegal trade alive.
"We cannot put the criminals out of business until we also confront the problem of demand," he noted. "Those who pay for the chance to sexually abuse children and teenage girls must be held to account."
President Bush said many other countries are joining the United States in tackling human trafficking. He made specific mention of the nations of Southeast Asia, saying they are working with the U.S. to crack down on what is commonly know as "sex tourism," where customers travel from one country to another in search of young prostitutes.