NY Gov’t Leaders, Activists Urge Strong Senate Bill to Curb Human Trafficking

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The following is an excerpt of a press release from Rep. Maloney in December 2007:

Today, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Queens), New York City Council Member Helen Sears (D-Jackson Heights), and other leaders in the fight against human trafficking rallied at City Hall and released letters to U.S. Senate leaders urging them to quickly pass a strong anti-trafficking bill (full copies of the advocates’ letters are below). Last week, the U.S. House overwhelmingly passed the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (H.R. 3887), which authorizes critical funding to combat trafficking and help victims –however, advocates now want to make sure that the Senate passes an equally strong measure. Additionally, Council Member Sears announced at the rally that she is having a City Council resolution prepared to call for the swift passage of this act by the U.S. Senate.

Joining Maloney and Sears at the event were New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Ambassador John Miller, who led the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, New York State Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, Council Member Jessica Lappin, representatives of NOW-NYS, NOW-NYC, the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, Sanctuary for Families, the Polaris Project, the New York Association of New Americans, ECPAT-USA, the American Association of University Women, Girls Learn International, the Women’s City Club of NY, the Veteran Feminists of America, and others.

“We need a strong bill to ensure that the punishments for human trafficking fit this terrible crime,”said Rep. Maloney. “Make no mistake: human trafficking is 21st-century slavery. The House bill gives prosecutors the tools they need to hold traffickers accountable and better protect trafficking victims. I urge my Senate counterparts to include these measures in their version of the legislation. Additionally, I’d like to thank my good friend Helen Sears for her leadership in fighting human trafficking here in New York City and her efforts to secure Council support for this crucial bill.”

“The practice of human trafficking is a worldwide problem -and one that requires a worldwide solution- that we in the US should be taking the lead on,”said Speaker Quinn. “The House of Representatives showed real leadership in passing the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. It is now up to our colleagues in the Senate to follow in their footsteps to take this important step to protect the millions of people caught up in this horrifying industry.”

“I am grateful to Congresswoman Maloney for her persistent efforts to have the federal government recognize its responsibility to do everything it can to stop this horrendous betrayal to human beings,” said Sears. “The City Council is also doing its part and has passed a human trafficking initiative that is in the final planning stages.”

“I am very proud that the state of New York enacted my anti-Human Trafficking legislation into law. New York now has the toughest laws in the nation to fight human trafficking and we provide services for human trafficking victims. I applaud Congresswoman Maloney for her long time leadership on the federal level to combat modern day slavery. I urge the United States Senate to follow the lead of Congresswoman Maloney and the House of Representatives and pass this legislation quickly as possible,”said Assemblyman Dinowitz.

“Many people are surprised to learn is that this modern-day slavery is happening in the U.S. and in the neighborhoods where we work and live. JFK Airport is a main gateway used by traffickers to bring in victims. There are few states that have as great a stake in the federal trafficking efforts than New York. The National Organization for Women urges the Senate to pass the TVPRA which includes broader protections for trafficked women and children,”said Sonia Ossorio, President of NOW-NYC.

H.R. 3887 authorizes critical funding to combat trafficking and help victims. The law would allow the Department of Justice to prosecute traffickers without having to prove fraud, force or coercion, or a victim’s status as a minor – instead, the law would allow prosecutors to use these aggravating circumstances as the basis for enhanced penalties. Currently, the law requires testimony from a traumatized victim who has reason to fear the consequences to herself or her family if she testifies. By eliminating the need for victims to testify about force, fraud or coercion, prosecutors will have a more effective way to crack down on traffickers. The law would also require the Attorney General to conduct a biennial survey of trafficking in the United States.

Background: Congresswoman Maloney is an original cosponsor of H.R. 3887. She has worked to combat sex trafficking internationally, nationally, and in her New York City district for the past seven years. Maloney urged state and federal prosecutors to investigate Queens-based Big Apple Oriental Tours and other sex tour operators for criminal violations. She is a strong supporter of federal legislation to strengthen the ability of the government to prosecute sex tour operators.

A landmark law to make the United States a leader in combating the worldwide affliction of sex trafficking was enacted in 2006. That law incorporates key provisions of the End Demand for Sex Trafficking Act championed by Maloney and Congresswoman Deborah Pryce (R-OH).

Council Member Sears first introduced a resolution to combat trafficking in 2006. Resolution 504, which passed the Council in November 2006, called upon the State of New York to recognize that human trafficking is a crime and to pass legislation criminalizing human trafficking and providing services and programs to trafficking victims. In addition, Council Member Sears is the driving force behind the upcoming City Council Trafficking Initiative.

Read the rest here.

As noted previously, (see also), the primary opposition to this bill is that it is a “waste of resources” to help coerced prostitutes. Even some fairly conservative groups understand the importance of this bill, and reject the despicable “states rights” and “resource waste” objections of the deeply politicized Bush DoJ:

Despite growing opposition from fellow conservatives, the Southern Baptist Convention is standing firm.

Duke draws analogies to the Civil War-era issue of slavery.

“One hundred and [fifty] years ago we fought slavery as if it was a state’s right and we found out it was not,”he said, emphasizing that human trafficking is a nation- and worldwide problem that needs to be solved.

The differing views have boiled down to a clash over whether the trafficking bill violates the Constitution.

Despite being impugned, sometimes deservedly, as a backward Southern state, thanks in part to fabulous, morally centered graduates of the University of South Carolina School of Law like Reggie Lloyd, South Carolina has a fairly progressive approach to human trafficking, but we need this bill passed to help more trafficked people.

–Ann Bartow

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