State legislatures across the country are considering legislation to combat human trafficking last week. In the Empire State, Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and Senator Stephen Saland (R-Poughkeepsie) sponsored a bill to extend New York’s Interagency Task Force on Human Trafficking through 2013. The task force was established, in 2007, to implement “harsher penalties for human traffickers and provide assistance to victims of prostitution and involuntary labor.” The renewal of the task force’s mandate is crucial to the continued fight against trafficking in the U.S. because so many of the victims trafficked into the U.S. each year enter through New York. According to a recent report from the U.S. State Department “[o]nly Texas, California and Florida have higher occurrences of human trafficking than New York.” Read more in the Legislative Gazette.
Down South, Representative Walt Leger (D-New Orleans) after a request from Governor Bobby Jindal is proposing a bill in the Louisiana Legislature “that would increase the penalty for those who aid and abet in human trafficking and the child sex trade.”
‘It’s really focused on reaching out to those people who may provide assistance to human trafficking, and it’s similar to what we’ve done with racketeering laws, is you reach out and involve anyone involved in the criminal enterprise,’ said Rep. Leger. ‘It seems that laws around the country are seeking to crack down on this type of behavior.’
While this is a positive step forward in the fight against trafficking in Louisiana, community advocates are calling for more to be done to address this issue. Martin Gutierrez, Director of Neighborhood and Community Services for Catholic Charities, commented:
“I think it’s a matter of identifying the cases and prosecuting them . . . [y]ou can have a bunch of laws on the books, but if you don’t have the cases to apply the laws too, then what good is it?”
In the neighboring state of Texas on Wednesday, both lawmakers and advocates came together at the State Capitol to call for more stringent human trafficking laws in Texas. Greg Abbott, the state’s Attorney General, shared the stories of ‘a 12-year-old child who was found in a strip club totally nude [and a] 16 year-old-girl who hungered for food and desperately needed shelter and was taken in by a trafficker’ with those gathered.
This legislative session, Senator Leticia Van De Putte (D-San Antonio) and Representative Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) put forward a bills in the Texas Senate and House to “put into a gear a 2011 Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force report.” Also, check out Senator Van De Putte discussing her bill here.