Gov. Rick Perry today joined Texas State Rep. Senfronia Thompson at the International Conference on Human Trafficking to discuss Texas' efforts to combat human trafficking and provide support to victims of human trafficking.
"Human trafficking is a serious problem, whether you discuss the number of its victims or the severity of the emotional and physical damage that it inflicts upon them," Gov. Perry said. "Human traffickers and their illicit activities are a scourge that must be driven from our state."
Gov. Perry called on the Texas Legislature to create a tougher law to punish human traffickers, with penalties ranging from 25 years to life, by creating 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.
"Human Trafficking is a form of slavery," Rep. Thompson said. "Traffickers prey upon women, children and the most vulnerable among us, stealing their money and threatening their families to ensure cooperation. Human trafficking inflicts irrevocable harm upon its victims and our communities. We must stamp out human trafficking immediately, aggressively, and completely. We need to raise the profile of this issue among the higher education community, ensuring that our educational system is producing professionals capable of joining the fight, and we need to help law enforcement and prosecutors by giving them better tools to attack traffickers directly. I look forward to continuing this discussion as we consider measures we can implement at the state level during the upcoming legislative session."
The governor also recently announced grants through the Governor's Criminal Justice Division 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. Cities and counties applying for the 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.
These actions expand 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.