84th Legislative Session

SAN ANTONIO – The human trafficking bill that unanimously passed the Texas House on Tuesday is on its way to the Senate. If adopted, HB 10 introduced by State Rep. Senfronia Thompson of Houston, could become law in September.

One of its key provisions would lift the current statute of limitations, which is five years to report the crime of compelling prostitution of children under age 18.

Miriam Elizondo, co-executive director of the Rape Crisis Center, said often human trafficking victims are so young, they don’t understand it is a crime against them.

“They don’t even know the definition of human trafficking, and so when you ask them if they’ve been trafficked, they have no idea what that is,” Elizondo said.

She said many victims are hesitant to speak out against their trafficker, who grooms them to have sex for money.

Elizondo said, “The last part of that grooming process is to reinforce, ‘You’ve already done this. People are going to look at you differently. You’re not the same.’”

Read the full story here.

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 7.08.04 AMAUSTIN (AP) — The halfway point of Texas’ 120-day legislative session has come and gone, meaning constitutional limits are lifted and lawmakers are free to vote on any bill they like.

Most of the hardest work has been and will continue to be done in committee, where Senate and House members delay or outright discard proposals without enough support to survive while hashing out differences on bills likely headed for full floor votes in each chamber.

That process is designed to be slow and will remain so until the final day of the session June 1 gets much closer.

Still, the House is poised to vote on its first bill Monday afternoon, a sweeping human trafficking plan that makes it easier to prosecute the crime of forcing minors into prostitution and establishes a special state anti-sex trafficking unit.

The measure is sponsored by state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, a Houston Democrat and 43-year House veteran who is among the chamber’s most-esteemed members. But it’s also considered part of a broader border security package — and measures on that topic were exempted from the first-60-day ban on passing bills because Gov. Greg Abbott made it an “emergency item.”

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Capital700x484Wednesday, Rep. Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound) filed four bills designed to combat human trafficking in Texas.

In presenting his legislation, Parker emphasized the need for the Legislature to address what is becoming a growing problem in Texas.

“Virtually everyone in Texas is touched in some way by this crime,” Parker stated. “We live in a state that accounts for more than 14 percent of all calls received by the national human trafficking resource center. The time has come for us to put our foot down and get even more serious about cracking down on this horrible crime that is a modern form of slavery.”

As filed, House Bill 2319 would address the demand side of human trafficking by raising the penalties facing those who would solicit prostitution. House Bill 2291 would increase the penalties facing persons with multiple convictions of possession of child pornography.

In order to shed light on the plight of human trafficking victims and help them later in life, Parker also filed House Bill 2290 to designate January as Human Trafficking Prevention Month and House Bill 2286 to provide an avenue for victims to possibly overturn convictions of prostitution accrued if they were, in fact, a victim of human trafficking….

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(Austin) – Today, State Representative Senfronia Thompson (D- Houston) filed House Bill 10, the Anti-Human Trafficking Omnibus Bill. House Bill 10 encompasses all ten legislative recommendations made by the Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force.

“House Bill 10 is a an example of just how vital the work of the Task Force is to ensuring that Texas maintains a stronghold against trafficking and continues to put the needs of victims first,” said Representative Thompson.

The Anti-Human Trafficking Omnibus Bill is a comprehensive piece of legislation that is aimed at addressing all aspects of anti-trafficking efforts. For example, House Bill 10 would extend the criminal statute of limitations for offense involving compelling prostitution of a minor and provide exception for victims of human trafficking under the Crime Victims’ Compensation Act. In addition, House Bill 10 adds human trafficking to the child abuse report and programs for school districts and charter schools while also adding human trafficking to the list of required training for certain members of the judiciary.

Most importantly, House Bill 10 would create the Child Sex Trafficking Prevention Unit, within the Criminal Justice Division under the Office of the Governor to assist other agencies in coordinating resources for child sex trafficking prevention. The goal of the Child Sex Trafficking Prevention Unit would be to work towards preventing child sex trafficking, recovering victims and helping provide resources for those rescued victims.

According to Representative Thompson, “The creation of this unit is absolutely an integral step in the direction of making sure that one of the most heinous forms of trafficking, domestic minor sex trafficking, receives comprehensive attention.”

One of the most vulnerable populations for human trafficking are the children who run away from their homes, domestic minors — often called “runaways” or “throwaways.” According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), 1 in every 7 endangered runaways reported to NCMEC was likely a victim of child sex trafficking.

“We have a responsibility to look after the children and youth of this state. To make sure that they are safe and able to grow up in a world free of slavery. I am sure that this unit will play an important role in not only providing much needed resources to these victims, but help put an absolute end to child sex trafficking in Texas,” added Representative Thompson

“Thanks to ongoing collaboration among law enforcement authorities, prosecutors, and victim advocacy organizations, Texas remains a national leader in human trafficking prevention efforts,” Attorney General Ken Paxton said. “By enhancing penalties against sex traffickers who exploit children, providing crucial new tools to the judiciary, and creating a Child Sex Trafficking Prevention Unit, we can help ensure that Texas will continue to bring traffickers to justice and protect survivors.”

The Task Force was created in 2009 in an effort to foster a statewide partnership between law enforcement agencies, social service providers, nongovernmental organizations, legal representatives, and state agencies that fight against human trafficking. The Task Force works to develop policies and procedures to assist in the prevention and prosecution of human trafficking crimes. Additionally, Representative Thompson has filed House Bill 188 to continue the Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force.

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AUSTIN — More than 10,000 Texas children run away each year, and within 48 hours, one out of three will already be lured into the sex trade, according to Children At Risk.

On Thursday, advocates and Texas lawmakers met at the Texas State Capitol to announce a package of bills they said they will pass this legislative session.

Katie Pedigo, executive director of New Friends New Life, an organization that works with formerly trafficked and sexually exploited girls and women, said Texas has the second-most human trafficking in the United States. In fact, according to state data, Texas accounts for almost 14 percent of all calls received by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, second only to California.

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As the 84th Legislative Session has begun, the CLC staff wants to provide an overview of our public policy priorities. Last week, we talked about advocacy in general, and this week we explore human trafficking.

articlehands250Many people assume the 13th amendment ended slavery in America, but there are still slaves among us. Human trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transporting or procurement of a person for labor or services for the purpose of involuntary servitude or commercial sex acts. Everyday men, women and children are forced into manual labor or commercial sexual acts against their will. This modern day slavery exists in the form of human trafficking.

Human trafficking does not require the victim to be transported across state lines or internationally, it simply requires the use of force or coercion to exploit a person for profit. The trafficking of these people is big business, in fact, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety it is the fastest growing business of organized crime and the third-largest criminal enterprise in the world.

Texas’ large agricultural industries, myriad of interstate highways and border with Mexico make it especially vulnerable to trafficking. Last year, Texas ranked second among states with the most calls to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. The Interstate 10 corridor is considered one of the major routes for human traffickers.

Sex trafficking is not merely an international problem; it is estimated that about 293,000 American youth are currently at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation.

Studies have shown that many domestic victims of sex trafficking have histories of sexual abuse, families with substance abuse issues and homelessness.

While sex trafficking may get more attention, labor trafficking is also a widespread problem in America with more than 14 million people trapped in forced labor in agriculture, construction, domestic work and manufacturing industries, according to the International Labor Organization.

Victims of labor trafficking are often lured in by the promise of good-paying jobs, only to be forced to work 12-hour days for little or no wages under the threat of violence or deportation. Labor trafficking receives less attention, and it’s precisely that surreptitious capability that has allowed it to flourish.

The Christian Life Commission is committed to working in collaboration with other organizations, law enforcement and elected officials to end human trafficking in Texas. Our public policy priorities are focused on improving victim services, expanding access to training for law enforcement officials and others that may come into contact with victims, and working to address demand for forced labor and prostitution. As those who are free, we have a responsibility to liberate those who are still slaves, whether they are spiritually or physically enslaved (Isaiah 61:1) .

If you are interested in learning more about our human trafficking advocacy, join us at the Capitol on February 12 for Human Trafficking Advocacy Day.

Here are some of the bills that have been filed so far on human trafficking:

HB 188 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson

    • This bill would re-authorize the Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force and add making recommendations to deal with the demand for forced labor and sexual conduct to their responsibilities. The task force has been critical to Texas’ efforts to combat trafficking in the state by providing recommendations, developing trainings, and identifying gaps in resources.

HB 416 by Rep. Debbie Riddle

    • This bill would require those working in abortion facilities to receive training in recognizing human trafficking victims. Victims of trafficking may be forced into abortions by their captors, and this bill would ensure staff at abortion facilities are equipped to assist these women.

On Monday November 10th, Houston area Representative Senfronia Thompson filed House Bill 188, which aims to keep the “Texas Human Trafficking Prevention force” active for another two years.

http://legiscan.com/TX/text/HB188/id/1050946

The Texas Human Trafficking Prevention task force first began in 2009, and requires periodic evaluation and legislative approval to stay open and active. The bill has many new details, including the clearly defined expectations of those working within the task force, and the standard procedures of which to go by. This bill includes more than provisions for law enforcement, it also requires efforts and resources to be put towards compiling further data about trafficking within the state to get an better idea of the problem and the trends surrounding it. As Texas is second in the nation for trafficking problems, it’s critical that the state learn more about the problem and it’s growth trends. This will also give the task force a better idea on the effectiveness of it’s efforts to curb trafficking. It states that statistical data regarding the nature and extent of human trafficking in the area is required to be periodically published. The bill also seeks to improve upon the training on human trafficking that law enforcement officials receive.