Sen. Cornyn is co-sponsoring the bill with Rep. Ted Poe from Houston. It would give law enforcement more tools to prosecute those involved in human trafficking, increase penalties for trafficking-related offenses and provide more resources for victims.
“What we’re trying to do is to find ways to provide additional tools to both combat the traffickers and also provide assistance to the victims of human trafficking.”
Cornyn says the “Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act” would create a fund supporting programs for domestic trafficking victims. That fund would be entirely financed through fines on people convicted of offenses like child pornography, sexual exploitation and human smuggling.
It would also create a new grant program to help state and local governments in their anti-human trafficking efforts.
During the roundtable at the Children’s Assessment Center in Rice Village, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett says the legislation would help the county a great deal.
“When you realize that Harris County has more people than 24 states and where we’re located in the country, the accessibility, we become kind of a mecca for something that’s really bad and that’s human trafficking.”
Other participants in the roundtable were Houston Mayor Annise Parker, Chief Charles McClelland, Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia and acting District Attorney Belinda Hill. Representatives from different non-profit organizations were also on hand.
Earlier, Mayor Parker had kicked off the city’s Human Trafficking Awareness Month. She says the proposed bill would help the city’s efforts to combat human trafficking.
“But one of the gaps in our view is that citizens really don’t know what human trafficking is. They don’t know how to recognize it. We have certain images, which are human trafficking but the topic is so much broader.”
Throughout this month, the city will hold events to educate the public on the issue.
Sheriff Garcia also stressed the importance of fighting the crime. But he says the necessary resources aren’t always there.
“And your legislation is going to bring a new and important resource to helping, No. 1, put the evildoers behind bars where they need to be, and then secondly help to bring justice and restoration to the victims of these horrific crimes.”
Human trafficking has long been a major focus for Sen. Cornyn.
Early this year he introduced the “Human Trafficking Reporting Act,” which would classify trafficking as a violent crime.
Cornyn says he and Rep. Poe will introduce the “Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act” sometime later this year.