HUMAN TRAFFICKING: JOINT INTERIM COMMITTEE TO STUDY HAS HELD HEARINGS
Earlier this year, the Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives appointed the House members for the Joint Interim Committee to Study Human Trafficking. I am very pleased that the Speaker has once again given me the honor of serving as a member of this very important committee. Since the time I was appointed to serve on this joint committee, there have been two public hearings giving the public the ability to provide feedback and information regarding this terrible issue. It is during this forum that we can obtain critical information to hopefully move forward in eradicating human trafficking.
As many of you are aware, the Texas Legislature is not currently in session. As required by the Texas Constitution, the Legislature meets for 140 days every odd-numbered year. This means that next official session for the Texas Legislature will meet in January 2015. It is important to note, however, that this does not mean that the Texas Legislature stops working. In fact, the period in between sessions, often referred to as the interim, is when the Texas Legislature identifies and studies the important issues facing the State of Texas in preparation for the next legislative session.
In 2009, I was appointed chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence. During this time frame, I learned about the issues relating to human trafficking in Texas. In 2011, I filed and passed HCR 68, which created a joint committee of Texas Senate and Texas House members to study the issue and come up with ideas for laws to address human trafficking. In 2013, several important laws were passed based on the work of the joint committee. Also in 2013, I passed HCR 57, which will allow for additional studies this year in order to propose new and workable laws to address human trafficking in 2015.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, human trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for one of three purposes:
• Labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purposes of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
• A commercial sex act through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.
• Any commercial sex act, if the person is under 18 years of age, regardless of whether any form of coercion is involved.
Between 2008 and 2010, data was collected through the Human Trafficking Reporting System. During that time period, federally funded task forces opened more than 2,500 cases of suspected human trafficking. Out of those 2,500 cases approximately 82% were classified as sex trafficking, with about 1,000 of those incidents involving allegations of prostitution or sexual exploitation of a child. The remaining cases were connected to trafficking for labor purposes and other unknown reasons. If you would like to learn more about these statistics and many others visit Bureau of Justice Statistics.
It is important to know that human trafficking is not exclusive to one segment of society. Human trafficking involves victims of all races, age groups, both males and females, and United States citizens, as well as non-citizens. Individuals seeking to force people into human trafficking do not discriminate amongst their victims and often prey upon those who are most vulnerable.
If you have questions regarding any of the information mentioned in this article, please do not hesitate to call my Capitol or District Office. As always, my offices are available at any time to assist with questions, concerns or comments (Capitol Office, 512-463-0672; District Office, 361-949-4603).
– State Representative Todd Hunter, District 32
Rep. Hunter represents Nueces (Part) County. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 512-463-0672.