Sunday, June 03, 2007

New York to Adopt Long Needed Anti-Human Trafficking Legislation

May 16th, 2007:

Governor Eliot Spitzer, Lieutenant Governor David Paterson and legislative leaders today announced an agreement on legislation that will combat the trafficking of human beings. The legislation makes Sex Trafficking and Labor Trafficking felony-level crimes and provides access to state social services for trafficking victims.

Read the official press release here.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, a federal anti-trafficking law, was passed in the United States in 2000. New York will join 29 other states in adopting state level laws to address trafficking.

For states without anti-trafficking legislation of their own, human trafficking is a crime but there's no state law against it. This means only federal authorities can pursue traffickers- the problem is federal prosecutors don't have the resources to go after smaller-scale traffickers and instead focus on prosecuting the biggest cases.

Last year the New York State Senate and Assembly passed competing anti-trafficking bills and could not reach an agreement on final legislation. The issues of contention included how much to punish customers of prostitutes and what help to offer victims of trafficking willing to testify against traffickers.

In the soon-to-be-passed legislation, the lowest-level patronizing a prostitute crime will be elevated from a B to an A misdemeanor. Assistance available to victims of trafficking includes case management, emergency temporary housing, health and mental health care, drug addiction screening and treatment, language and translation services, and job training. Victims can also apply through the federal government for special T visas that allow the victims in the United States to testify against the traffickers and eventually becoming eligible for refugee status.

The adoption of state level anti-trafficking laws is an important step in combating trafficking allowing local law enforcement and criminal justice systems to address the issue, instead of leaving it to federal prosecutors, and providing state level social services to assist victims of trafficking.

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