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Texas Raising the Heat on Trafficking


New Laws in Texas 2021

As of September 1, 2021 the State of Texas has some new laws that have gone into effect that will with any luck raise the heat on human trafficking in the state. According to the Attorney General of Texas' page on human trafficking there are 234,000 victims of labor trafficking in Texas at any given time. With those numbers we can see a glimpse of how big the human trafficking issue is in the state.


House Bill 1540

House Bill 1540 was signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott back in June 2021. The main component of discussion of HB1540 is that it is now a felony for a 'John' ( a person soliciting sexual acts from a prostitute or person) to solicit sex in Texas. There are articles that discuss the ideology behind this as being a way to target the other side of the equation and giving relief to those sex workers that may be trafficking victims. HB1540 is the first of its kind to target the those on the demand side. Texas is the first state to make solicitation or purchase of sex a felony.


We will have to wait and see what kind of impact this law brings on the human trafficking situation here in Texas. However, on face value it seems like a good idea. State Rep. Senfronia Thompson of Houston has been working since 2010 on various human trafficking initiatives and laws in the state. Kudos Rep. Thompson for her hard work on making our community a better place.


The only reservations that I have is the potential adverse effects this may have. We all remember how well the war on drugs went. I hope I am wrong, but it is my speculation that traffickers and pimps will find new ways to avoid detection and keep their clientele out of the prison system. I anticipate that dark web solicitation and trafficking may increase as a result. Additionally, like mandatory minimum sentences in the 80's for drug offenses we may see an overwhelming influx of criminals into the justice system and penal system which seems to be overtaxed as is. Again, sincerely hope that I am wrong and this law will not end up displacing one issue with subsequent issues is like the proverbial finger in the dam. We just hope there aren't any more leaks that occur.


House Bill 1371

House Bill 1371 addresses a change in laws passed in 2017 and 2019 respectfully. Cosmetology and massage establishments had to post awareness signs for human trafficking. Now they are required to add contact information for the Texas Department of Public Safety to those signs. This is really a minor a minor change for businesses. They already had to post signs regarding human trafficking. Now it just adds a mechanism for people to report suspected trafficking.


The difficult part from a HPD Vice officer I once spoke with is getting victims to cooperate with the authorities. Most of the time they fear reprisal by their oppressors or fear being deported if they cooperate. While creating a mechanism that helps report violations or trafficking. T Visas help trafficking victims, but congress only authorizes 5,000 T Visas each fiscal year. So the rest of the victims go on the waitlist and run the treat of timing out of the immigration system.


House Bill 985 (Julia Wells Act)

House Bill 985 is probably my favorite. Now in Texas driver education courses must include information related to human trafficking prevention. This has a large impact as thousands of young drivers get their licenses every year. The only concern with this is the maturity, concern, or care given to the subject by young impressionable adults a.k.a. teenagers. While some may take this as an opportunity to absorb information that could have positive outcome for someone. Some undoubtedly will be consumed with seemingly more petty or trivial concerns like teen drama and celebrity relationships. HB985 is a great start to raising awareness.


Conclusions

While our legislature in Texas is continually improving by passing laws (which is good, it means they are doing their jobs), I believe we as the community stewards (families, businesses, celebrities, and stakeholders) have a long ways to go. Until we stop and address the problems head on by choosing not to patron businesses aligned with human trafficking (I am not referencing your massage parlors and nail salons, but your businesses that actively engage in trafficking) or report illicit activity we will continue to see modern day slavery being perpetuated in our own cities, towns, neighborhoods, and backyards. It takes all of us to fix a problem as big as human trafficking.


If you own a business please check out TBAT. It is a great way to start making a change in your community.

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