Speaker Appoints Joint Interim Committees (Human Trafficking)
During the 81st Texas Legislature, I Chaired the Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee. It is while serving as Chairman of that committee that I learned how serious a problem human trafficking is in the State of Texas. It is for this reason that during the 82nd Texas Regular Legislative Session, I filed and the legislature passed House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 68, which was signed on June 17, 2011, by Governor Rick Perry. HCR 68 officially requested that the Lieutenant Governor and the Speaker of the House create a joint interim study committee.
At the beginning of 2012, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurstand Texas House Speaker Joe Straus appointed the members of the Joint Committee on Human Trafficking. The committee is comprised of seven Texas House members and seven Texas Senate members. The committee is tasked with analyzing ways to combat the human trafficking trade within the State of Texas, as well as identifying services that may be available to victims of human trafficking and the best practices that can be utilized by public-private partnerships. It is extremely important that the State of Texas take a lead role in combating human trafficking due to the state’s large geographical size and busy ports.
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 2008-2010, data was collected through the Human Trafficking Reporting System. During that time period Federally funded task forces opened more than 2500 cases of suspected human trafficking. Out of those 2500 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.
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 in to human trafficking do not discriminate amongst their victims and often prey upon those who are most vulnerable.
At the end of March, I am proud to be hosting the Human Trafficking Summit in connection with Del Mar andVictoria Colleges. The Summit will be held on March 29th from 8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. at the Center for Economic Development on the Del Mar College campus inCorpus Christi,Texas. Keynote speakers will include Sheriff T. Michael O’Connor of Victoria County and The Honorable Senfronia Thompson. If you would like to attend please feel free to contact my office for additional information or go to my website. The Summit is free for everyone to attend.