Human trafficking is a federal crime, and while the 2000 Victims and Violence Protection Act has earmarked hundreds of millions of federal dollars toward services to help victims, state lawmakers say more needs to be done to help victims here. At least one fourth of all U.S. human trafficking cases originate in Texas.
Kellie Armstrong is executive director of the Arrow Child and Family Ministries. She told the state committee studying human trafficking that a safe house for victims in the Houston area was the first in Texas to address the issue.
"Currently our girls range in ages of 13 to 17, and we have girls referred to us from all over the state and out of state. Currently,we have five girls from Houston, one from Beaumont, one from San Antonio, one from Abilene and five from the Dallas-Ft.Worth region."
Houston has become a major hub for the commercial sex trade, because of its International airport & location on the I-10 corridor.
Harris County DA Pat Lykos told the committee that it is a public safety issue.
"The bulk of the people involved in prostitution are domestic, and too many of them are our children. With respect to the foreign nationals, they're primarily in the massage parlors, the teen houses and the cantinas."
While Texas has made significant progress in going after human traffickers, especially those who prostitute minors, the committee hopes testimony being gathered will result in even more legislation aimed at cracking down on this criminal activity.