Monday, November 17, 2008

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Attorney General Abbott Releases Report Showing State Laws Need Strengthening To Deal With Human Trafficking

AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte today released the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) 2008 Human Trafficking Report. The legislatively-mandated study details the impact of human trafficking on the State of Texas. It examines how legislative changes could reduce human trafficking and provide better services for victims. Human trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transporting or obtaining of a person for labor or services for the purpose of subjecting victims to involuntary servitude, slavery or forced commercial sex acts.

“Human trafficking is a horrific crime that deprives its victims of basic human rights,” Attorney General Abbott said. “Sadly, human trafficking victims are coerced into modern day slave labor and forced prostitution rings. The State of Texas must continue to focus on preventing human trafficking and protecting its victims.”

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The U.S. Department of State estimates that between 14,500 and 17,500 are trafficked into the U.S. from Asia, Central and South America, and Eastern Europe, and many more are trafficked domestically within the United States each year. Additionally, about one in five people trafficked have been in Texas. Houston and El Paso are included among the U.S. Department of Justice’s “most intense trafficking jurisdictions in the country.”

State Sen. Van de Putte said: “I truly believe that we are not defenseless in the struggle to end the exploitation of children and vulnerable adults, and this is why I took a stand for those caught in the ugly web of modern day slavery. In the upcoming legislative session, I intend to further advance our efforts to eliminate human trafficking in Texas.”

The OAG’s 57-page report, “The Texas Response to Human Trafficking,” offers 21 recommendations that are intended to reduce human trafficking and improve services to victims. These recommendations include possible statutory changes and improved outreach efforts that would better educate law enforcement personnel about identifying human trafficking.

Later today, Senator Van de Putte is convening a roundtable discussion on human trafficking. The discussion will focus on prevention, identification, investigation and prosecution of human trafficking. Panelists included: Eric Nichols, Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice, and Denise Donnely; Dr. Noel Busch, The University of Texas at Austin; Mandi Kimball, Children at Risk; Sgt. Chris Burchell, Bexar County Sheriff's Department; Steph Weber, Houston Rescue and Restore Coalition; and Melissa Moreno, Catholic Charities.
The report Attorney General Abbott released today satisfies the requirements of Senate Bill 11 passed in the 80th Legislature. The report is available online at http://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/AG_Publications/pdfs/human_trafficking.pdf.