Wednesday, February 24, 2010

State-Level Human Trafficking Policy

During the 2010 legislative session, state legislators around the United States are reviewing and enacting a range of anti-trafficking laws. Though federal laws and legislation play a leading role in fighting human trafficking, state-level policy has a vital role to play in filling in gaps, addressing the local trafficking context, and increasing victim identification. Pending and proposed state legislation ranges from attempts to catch up with other states to innovative efforts.

Earlier this month, a Vermont Senate Committee began considering a bill that would make Vermont's state trafficking laws comprehensive. Currently, only sex trafficking is covered under Vermont's law; labor trafficking is ignored. Vermont is one of five states that lacks a comprehensive law.

Several states are considering legislation that would strengthen penalties for trafficking. The Utah House passed a bill that would make it a separate charge for each person someone trafficked. A California bill that has received support of many anti-trafficking NGOs would increase sentencing minimums and maximums for human trafficking, and would also include fines of up to $500,000. The bill also would mandate human trafficking training for law enforcement officers and increase measures to protect victims.

Oklahoma is also reviewing a bill that could enhance penalties for trafficking, but in a slightly different way. Senate Bill 2258, which recently was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee, would increase penalties for destroying or taking someone's personal identification documents. Since traffickers often control victims through controlling victims' documentation, supporters argue this bill would help fight trafficking.

The California State Senate recently approved a bill that would require manufacturers and retailers to develop, implement, and maintain policies to help eliminate human trafficking in their supply chains. This bill takes a unique approach to anti-trafficking work by encouraging corporate responsibility. If it is successful, it could be a useful and influential model for other states.

An Oregon bill that unanimously passed the State Senate and is now headed to the Governor for final ratification aims to raise awareness and increase identification of victims. The bill would allow for stickers with the national human trafficking hotline number to be disseminated to and displayed by establishments that sell alcohol. Texas enacted a similar bill in 2007.

Polaris Project's U.S. Policy Program tracks state anti-trafficking policy efforts. The Action Center includes information on how to advocate for pending anti-trafficking legislation.

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