Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Attorney General Abbott Supports Signing Of Human Trafficking Prevention LegislationAUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today joined Gov. Rick Perry at a ceremony where the governor signed human trafficking prevention legislation into law. The new law, which was sponsored by Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and Rep. Senfronia Thompson, implements legislative recommendations from the Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force, which is chaired by Attorney General Abbott.
“With the passage and signing of Senate Bill 24, Gov. Perry, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and Rep. Senfronia Thompson have given law enforcement crucial new tools to combat human trafficking in the State of Texas,” Attorney General Abbott said. “Human traffickers use force, fraud and coercion to compel their victims into modern-day slavery. By increasing penalties for traffickers and continuing to foster cooperation among law enforcement, Senate Bill 24 will help ensure Texas remains hostile territory for human traffickers.”
Senate Bill 24 increases penalties for traffickers and provides increased new protections for child victims. The law also provides civil remedies against human traffickers and implements new protections for human trafficking victims. The Senate passed SB 24 unanimously on March 23. It was passed in the House of Representatives on April 7.
The 2011 Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force Report was published by the Attorney General’s Office on behalf of the task force and its 47 members. In addition to informing the legislature about the nature and scope of human trafficking in the State of Texas, the task force’s 2011 report contained recommendations for the 82nd Legislature. Pursuant to those recommendations, SB 24 creates legally distinct definitions of sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Under the new law, compelling prostitution of a child becomes a first-degree felony.
Under Senate Bill 24, human trafficking offenses would be added to the list of crimes for which a life sentence is automatic when a trafficker is subsequently convicted of trafficking a second time. The enhanced statute will also require sex traffickers to register in the Texas Sex Offender Registry. Senate Bill 24 also offers greater protections for child trafficking victims. The new law authorizes a parent or guardian of a child human trafficking victim to seek a protective order against their child’s trafficker and allows courts to treat child victims in sex trafficking cases the same way they treat sexual assault victims. Judges will also be given discretion to order that convicted human traffickers serve consecutive – rather than cumulative – prison sentences.
The Texas Legislature created the Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force during the 81st Legislative Session. Sen. Van de Putte and Rep. Randy Weber sponsored House Bill 4009, which established a statewide task force of law enforcement officials and crime victim services personnel who serve on the frontline of the state’s battle against human trafficking. In August 2010, the Governor’s Office awarded the Office of the Attorney General and the Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force a $291,000 grant to fund a financial analyst, a peace officer and a prosecutor to assist with the identification, investigation and prosecution of human trafficking cases statewide. All three positions have been filled and are currently participating in human trafficking prevention and enforcement operations.
For more information about the Office of the Attorney General’s battle against human trafficking, access a copy of the 2011 Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force Report on the agency’s website at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.