Gov. Rick Perry today called on the Texas Legislature to create a tougher law to punish human traffickers, with penalties ranging from 25 years to life. He also announced grants through the Governor's Criminal Justice Division (CJD) of up to $500,000 statewide to Texas cities and counties to provide services to victims of human trafficking, as well as a grant of more than $291,000 to the Office of the Attorney General's (OAG) Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force.
"Human traffickers prey on the hopes and dreams of their victims, promising better lives, when unfortunately what awaits is a life of confinement, criminal activity and physical and mental abuse," Gov. Perry said. "I'm here today to call upon the Texas Legislature to further toughen the laws against these traffickers. Those who would commit these heinous crimes need to know if they're caught in Texas, they won't see the light of day for a very long time."
Gov. Perry urged the creation of a new 3g offense in the penal code for Continuous Human Trafficking. Punishable with a term of life or 25-99 years imprisonment, the offense would apply to those who commit two or more acts of human trafficking during a period of more than 30 days. A 3g offense requires the trafficker to remain in prison longer before becoming eligible for parole.
Cities and counties applying for the announced CJD grants must provide services either through their own offices or by contracting with established local non-profit service providers. Individual grants may be awarded up to $75,000. The grant to the OAG's human trafficking task force will provide funding for a financial analyst, peace officer and prosecutorial assistance in the identification, investigation and prosecution of human trafficking cases statewide.
According to the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, the federal government estimates that 18,000 -- 20,000 victims are trafficked into the U.S. each year, and since 2001, 20 percent of the identified victims of human trafficking have been in Texas. This modern day slave trade forces trafficked individuals into everything from prostitution to hard labor in construction and agriculture, and many of the traffickers are engaged in larger crime rings.
Earlier in the day, the governor met with police chiefs from the Rio Grande Valley to discuss border security issues.
"Washington's recent efforts to shore up border security are a good first step, but much more needs to be done," Gov. Perry said. "Until Washington fully engages, Texas will keep pressing the issue and taking the fight to the criminal element that seeks to exploit our porous border, committing terrible crimes against our citizens in the process."
Today's action expands on the governor's commitment to preventing and prosecuting human trafficking crimes, and providing services to support the victims of human trafficking. Last session, the governor signed House Bill 4009, which created the Attorney General's Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force.