Texas gets tough on Human Trafficking
By Capt Steven Taylor, 136th Airlift Wing
/ Published June 23, 2011
NAS FORT WORTH JRB, Texas -- We all know that human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery that forces people to work against their will under threat of violence. Often men are forced to work in dangerous jobs for low without proper safety equipment. Women and girls are often forced into prostitution. The victims may work for years at low pay to pay off the traffickers who lured them in with promises of work and a better life. They are powerless and voiceless and in most cases, if they are to be rescued outsiders must recognize what is happening and intervene.
Texas is a major player with regard to human trafficking within the United States. Texas is a crossroads for trade with Mexico and Latin America. Six of the 10 ports that do the most trade in dollars with Mexico are in Texas.
The same geographic and cultural factors that make Texas an excellent entry point for legal commerce also make it attractive to illicit trades, including human trafficking. According to a report from the Texas Attorney General's office, one out of every five victims of human trafficking in the United States travels through Texas.
This year, the State of Texas has gotten tough on human trafficking. Repeat convictions for trafficking humans for sex or forced labor in Texas will mean life in prison under legislation ceremoniously signed into state law by Governor Rick Perry, on May 25, 2011.
What the law means
Senate Bill 24 accomplishes several things:
It creates a new offense for compelling prostitution by adult and child victims, toughens conditions for parole and bail, and defines prosecutable forms of human trafficking in forced sexual acts and forced labor. Trafficking in children becomes a first-degree felony punishable by five to 99 years to life in prison, plus a fine of up to $10,000.
Sex traffickers would have to register with the Texas Sex Offender Registry, and judges would have discretion to order human traffickers to serve consecutive rather than concurrent sentences.
The measure also strengthens protections for victims, many of whom are runaways from other states or may be reluctant to speak out against their captors.
House Bill 3000 creates the new first-degree felony of Continuous Trafficking of Persons, which carries a punishment of life without parole upon a second conviction.
There are more than 17,000 human trafficking victims in Texas each year.
At the local level Robert Sanborn, president of Houston-based Children at Risk, said the laws give local prosecutors the tools they need to go after traffickers in their communities.
"I think the biggest difference is that, in the past, it's been easier for us to prosecute the traffickers and put them away by using federal law," he said. "This makes it easier for county attorneys, district attorneys on the local level to join in that fight."
Remember as members of our nation's military we must never support or contribute to the scourge of human trafficking. Do not patronize establishments that are likely to be involved in human trafficking.
If you suspect a case of human trafficking, call the 24-hour, multilingual National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 888-3737-888. All calls are confidential. If you suspect that someone is a victim of human trafficking makes sure to notify your local law enforcement agency, AFOSI or Security Forces at 817-852-3700.