Cleaning Up Texas

Kelley Shannon reported yesterday on the state of trafficking in Texas and the law-makers that are drafting legislation to change the state of affairs.

“It is vile. It is almost unthinkable what happens to these victims,” said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, a San Antonio Democrat who has filed anti-human trafficking legislation for the 2009 session.

In the 2007 Legislature, Van de Putte passed a bill to toughen the legal definition of human trafficking to include “coercion.” That allowed authorities to pursue ring leaders along with those actually transporting and harboring people against their will, she said. That was a big step. Now, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott joined her at a Capitol news conference to urge passage of more state laws to combat trafficking and slavery.

“The reality is it is getting worse and worse on a yearly basis,” Abbott said. “Women are treated as slaves, often forced into despicable acts. Also, children are sold and traded to perform some of the most despicable sex acts.”

An estimated one in five people transported in human trafficking rings are in Texas or come through Texas, with El Paso and Houston serving as major hotbeds for the activity along Interstate 10, Abbott added.

Currently his office doesn’t have prosecution authority over human trafficking cases unless it is deputized and asked to assist a federal prosecutor or asked by a local prosecutor to step in.

Van de Putte, whose San Antonio district is located along I-10, said she wants to see more awareness of human trafficking through a state task force that would work with federal officials. She also wants more law enforcement and prosecutor training to battle the crime.

A U.S. State Department report found that 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year. Of those, 80 percent are female and 50 percent are children.

Read more at The Houston Chronicle. The UK’s Guardian also has a great piece about the situation in Texas, as does LegalNewsline.com.

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