March 16, 2015

Assembly to Pass Comprehensive Legislation to
Combat Human Trafficking

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Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie holds a Capitol news conference to announce the Assembly's comprehensive legislative package to combat human trafficking to better protect women and children and provide services to help victims recover and rebuild their lives. The Speaker also underscored provisions in the Assembly legislation, which was passed later in the day, that would help law enforcement crackdown and hold accountable the perpetrators of human trafficking crimes. Heastie was joined by members of the Assembly Majority and several advocacy organizations from across the state.

Speaker Carl Heastie joined together with members of the Assembly Majority and advocates today to announce that the Assembly intends to pass a comprehensive package of legislation to combat human trafficking. This critical legislation is aimed at implementing protections for victims, expanding access to services to empower survivors and strengthening criminal penalties for persons convicted of trafficking offenses.

"In 2007, the Assembly Majority passed New York's first anti-human trafficking law to create new crimes and increase penalties for labor and sex trafficking. Unfortunately, human trafficking continues to plague our communities and more needs to be done," said Speaker Heastie. "The legislation passed by the Assembly today will send a clear message that we will do all we can to protect victims, provide them with the vital support and services needed to end the cycle of victimization and hold perpetrators accountable. And now we must call on our colleagues in the Senate to do the same."

Human trafficking is a $32 billion global industry. It is estimated that more than 17,000 victims are brought to the United State each year, held against their will and forced into involuntary servitude, debt bondage and the sex trade.

The first steps in combating human trafficking are to protect survivors and prevent future victimization. A key bill included in the anti-human trafficking legislative package would require the State Office of Temporary and Disability Services to make safe accessible housing available to victims (A.2953/Lentol).

As part of the efforts to uncover trafficking locations and target trafficking networks, the Attorney General will be directed to establish and maintain a 24-hour anonymous toll-free hotline (A.2636/Hevesi). Any and all information obtained through the hotline will be referred to the appropriate district attorney for investigation and potential prosecution.

Assemblymember Joseph Lentol, chair of the Codes Committee, said "This is an urban problem. It is a suburban problem. It is a rural problem. The legislative agenda put forth today takes a holistic approach to addressing human trafficking. We will hold traffickers accountable in order to stop the exploitation of women and children and strengthen supportive services to better help survivors rebuild their lives."

Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi, chair of the Social Services Committee said "We must constantly re-evaluate the available services in order to ensure that we are sufficiently addressing the needs of victims and doing all we can to help prevent further victimization and exploitation. Combating human trafficking in New York and across the globe is a daunting task and we must remain vigilant in our efforts to eradicate it."

The Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act (A.506/Paulin) will strengthen New York's existing human trafficking laws by:

Assemblymember Amy Paulin said "Human trafficking is a brutal crime, the victims of which are caught in a complex cycle of abuse. I have held the hands of many survivors; I have listened to their heartbreaking stories; and I have been lifted up by their resolve to start over. For some of these brave survivors, we are the only voice they have. We must demand more severe penalties for the worst offenders. We must commit to more comprehensive services."

The Interagency Task Force on Human Trafficking (A.551/Hevesi) will be strengthened and extended until 2019. The Task Force is responsible for collecting and analyzing data on human trafficking, identifying social service programs for victims, developing recommendations for prevention, protecting and assisting victims, establishing protocols for law enforcement and related organizations, and increasing public awareness.

Additional measures meant to eliminate human trafficking include:

Assemblymember Matthew Titone said "We'd all like to think slavery is a thing of the past in America and New York State…it isn't. Human trafficking is very real and we must do all we can to eliminate this modern day form of slavery and help victims regain their lives."

Corinne Carey, assistant legislative director of the New York Civil Liberties Union and co-chair of the NY Women's Equality Coalition, said "The Coalition is grateful to the Assembly for demonstrating leadership once again on women's rights in New York State. The package the Assembly is poised to pass is a smart one: it will provide necessary and common-sense relief for women who have been subject to the horror of human trafficking."

Iryna, a survivor said "In New York, we need to bring to accountabilityto those who do the exploiting, so that others do not have to go through the nightmare I lived."

Lauren Hersh, director of anti-trafficking policy and advocacy for the Sanctuary for Families and a co-chair of the New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition, said "For those of us working with victims and survivors of human trafficking, we see firsthand the devastating and long term impact of this vicious crime. New York needs better tools to hold traffickers and those who exploit accountable, while providing protections to victims. New York needs the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act and these other important measures. We applaud Speaker Heastie for making this a reality."

Judy Harris Kluger, executive director Sanctuary for Families, said "In 2007, New York passed groundbreaking legislation, making our state a national leader in the fight against human trafficking. Eight years later, it is clear that more needs to be done. By passing this trafficking package today, our state legislators can strengthen law enforcement's response to this violent crime, while offering significant protections to its victims, including young children. It's time for New York to reclaim our leadership role in this fight. We urge the Assembly and Senate to pass these measures immediately."

Rev. Adrian Dannhauser, chair of the Task Force Against Human Trafficking for the Episcopal Diocese of New York, said "Human trafficking is a matter of great urgency that demands an urgent legislative response. The TVPJA is a vital step in answering God's call for justice and furthering God's work of bringing freedom to the captives and liberation to the oppressed."

Jess Dannhauser, CEO and president of Graham Wyndham, said "While early experiences in our young people's lives make them vulnerable to the horrors of human trafficking, they are exceedingly capable of leading healthy, productive lives when we protect them, invest in them, and surround them with positive, lasting relationships with peers and adults. The Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act is built on this belief in the capacity of young people and the importance of protecting and investing in their lives, and takes significant and important steps to act on it. We enthusiastically support its passage and call for continued investment in young people to make New York a model in the fight to end human trafficking."

Lisa Hofflich, of the Junior League, said "In order to eradicate these vicious crimes, we have to stigmatize and penalize the buyers and traffickers in a way that stanches the demand. We have to shift the paradigm of thinking that all persons for prostitution are complicit. We need to start listening to survivors and look at them for what they really are, victims who have had their basic human rights violently stripped away."

Richard Altman, CEO of the Jewish Child Care Association, said "The Jewish Child Care Association treats the victims of sex trafficking in our Gateways program. We know their hardships and heartaches. We urge the swift passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act which would help protect thousands of victims and put accountability where it deserves to be -- with the pimps and the buyers."

Rev. Que English, chair New York City Faith-Based Coalition Against Human Trafficking and Domestic Violence, said "This isn't a political issue. This is a moral issue. We must protect our children, teens, young women and men who fall victim to human trafficking. The urgency of the hour is at hand."

Jimmy Lee, executive director of Restore, said "Passing the TVPJA would highlight New York's leadership in protecting its most vulnerable and exploited - whether they were born in this country or came here from another country to pursue their dreams."

Ted Bunch, founder of A Call to Men, said "We must put an end to the buying of women and children. This affects us all; families, communities, women and men. This trafficking package is a critical step forward for New York in its fight against human trafficking and the end to modern day slavery."

Taina Bien Aime, executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, said "Passing the TVPJA is a new day for New York State in its fight to combat human trafficking. This victory gets us closer to recognizing that justice for victims begins with targeting the perpetrators, including buyers of sex."

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