Six new bills being proposed by state senators will make it easier for local and state law enforcement agencies to combat human trafficking.
According to State Senators, one out of every five people forced into slave or sex labor travel right down through Interstate 10 in Texas.
Paul Pinon, coordinator of the Human Trafficking Task Force for the El Paso Police Department, tells ABC-7, "Generally speaking, people here in the United States think the Emancipation Proclamation at the end of the Civil War eliminated slavery. Unfortunately, slavery still exists in the form of human trafficking."
Senator Leticia Van de Putte from San Antonio claims 25% of all human trafficking cases begin in Texas. The new bills will help local officials prosecute these types of cases. "It is not going to be the federal guys who uncover a victim of this billion-dollar industry it is going to be your local law enforcement agents," she stated.
El Paso District Attorney Jaime Esparza tells ABC-7 his office does not process any human trafficking cases because of inefficiencies in 2003 anti-trafficking law. Esparza believes the 2003 law is not realistic and has failed to accomplish its main goals. "As a result, we do not get any human trafficking cases presented to us by local law enforcement agencies, they send the cases to the Federal Government," he stated.
The 6 new bills being presented aim to strengthen the 2003 law so area District Attorney Offices will be able to prosecute human trafficking cases. It will also provide additional resources, such as grant money, that will allow the District Attorney Offices to hire people with experience in this field.
Another important issue Senator Van de Putte and District Attorney Esparza point out is that human trafficking should not be equated with illegal immigration. Although the majority of people forced into the sex trade are immigrants, others are homeless or runaway American children.
In the next two weeks, the state legislature will have several hearings to consider the bills.
Adapted from: "Proposed bills will help DA prosecute human trafficking cases." 29 March 2007.
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