Hunter heads trafficking probe
During the 81st Texas Legislature, I chaired the House 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 Texas. 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 Gov. Rick Perry. It requested that the lieutenant governor and the speaker of the house create a joint interim study committee.
At the beginning of 2012, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Texas House Speaker Joe Straus appointed the members of the Joint Committee on Human Trafficking.
The committee is comprised of seven state representatives and seven Texas senators, and is tasked with analyzing ways to combat the human trafficking trade within 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 Texas take a lead role in com- bating human trafficking due to the state’s large geographical size and busy ports.
The U.S. Bureau of Justice defines human trafficking 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. Federally funded task forces opened more than 2,500 cases of suspected human trafficking, approximately 82 percent of which were classified as sex trafficking. About 1,000 of those incidents involved allegations of prostitution or sexual exploitation of a child. The rest 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 and age groups, both males and females, and United States citizens as well as noncitizens.
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 host the Human Trafficking Summit in connection with Del Mar and Victoria colleges. The summit will be held Thursday, March 29, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Center for Economic Development on the Del Mar College east campus in Corpus Christi. Keynote speakers will include Sheriff T. Michael O’Connor of Victoria County and State Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston. If you would like to attend, please feel free to contact my office for additional information or go to my Web site. The summit is free.
If you have questions regarding any of the infor- mation mentioned in this article, please do not hesitate to call my capitol or district office.
Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, is the District 32 State Representative. Contact him at E2-808, P.O. Box 2910, Austin TX 78768; (512) 463-0672, the district office at (361) 949-4603 or todd. firstname.lastname@example.org.