Advocates want to get the ball rolling now on limiting the threat of human trafficking when New Jersey takes center stage in summer 2026 for FIFA World Cup.

MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford will host several World Cup games between mid-June and mid-July, including the tournament's final on July 19.

The series of events should attract about 1 million people to the New Jersey-New York region, from throughout the world, according to state officials.

While most people will be here for the action on the field, it's expected some will hit the region to prey on the most vulnerable.

"Sex and labor trafficking happens here in New Jersey. The demand for sex and labor also spikes when major events take place," said Gina Cavallo, vice president of the board of trustees for the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking.

According to Cavallo, that demand can be curbed with "effective messaging" — crafted by those who've survived trafficking, like herself — as well as a robust law enforcement presence.

Cavallo made her comments before the Assembly Judiciary Committee, which welcomed individuals on Thursday to speak about the pressing issue.

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According to Stephen DeLuca, with the Coalition, New Jersey provides the perfect setting for trafficking — whether or not there's a major event underway.

"No matter where you are in the state, you're near either a major metropolitan area — New York or Philadelphia — or you're near a major tourist destination," DeLuca said. "You also have major transportation sectors, the ports, the airports."

Human trafficking was also a focus of law enforcement when MetLife hosted the Super Bowl in 2014. A crackdown that spanned from late January through early February that year resulted in hundreds of arrests.

According to DeLuca, the threat is even greater with the World Cup coming to town.

"This is going to be a much larger event than one event on a Sunday."

In her testimony before lawmakers, Theresa Hilton, deputy director of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, said the state's Department of Law and Public Safety has dedicated significant resources toward combating this issue "generally."

"We have already met with multiple organizations to start coordinating efforts to mitigate the risk of increased human trafficking leading up to, during and after the 2026 FIFA World Cup," Hilton said.

A bill passed by the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Thursday creates a special council that would be responsible for issuing a report to state officials related to anti-trafficking efforts in preparation for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

"To our federal partners and representatives, I call on them to join us in ending this modern-day form of slavery,” said Assemblywoman Victoria Flynn, R-Monmouth, a member of the committee. “These are complex and covert crimes, requiring a united front. By working together, we can dismantle trafficking networks, support survivors, and prevent future exploitation.”

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