Assembly Passes Legislation Toughening Human Trafficking Penalties, Helping Victims

May 29, 2007

The state Assembly passed legislation – sponsored by Assemblyman Hevesi (D-Queens) – cracking down on human trafficking and providing services to victims. The bill has the support of both the state Senate and Governor Spitzer (A.8679).

“Human trafficking occurs when people – mostly women and children – are transported across borders and subjected to ongoing sexual exploitation or forced labor through coercion or threat,” Hevesi said. “In some cases, physical force is used. In other cases, false promises are made regarding job opportunities or marriages in foreign countries. Human trafficking is simply 21st century slavery.”

Hevesi added that once enslaved, victims are sometimes drugged and beaten into submission, and have their travel documents and IDs confiscated or destroyed to make it harder for them to escape or for authorities to track them down.

According to the U.S. State Department, human trafficking enslaves between 600,000 and 800,000 people worldwide. And according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, “A recent CIA report estimated that between 45,000 to 50,000 women and children are brought to the United States every year under false pretenses and are forced to work as prostitutes, abused labourers or servants.”

“Human trafficking is a horrible practice that occurs both in our country and throughout the world,” Hevesi said. “The legislation passed by the Assembly lets human traffickers know that their immoral behavior will not be tolerated in New York.”

Cracking down on human trafficking

The Assembly passed the Anti-Human Trafficking Act of 2006 last year, but it stalled in the Senate. This year’s bipartisan agreement creates new crimes and increases penalties to help deter human trafficking. These include:

  • Creating a new class B felony, “sex trafficking,” which imposes a mandatory prison sentence for perpetrators who profit from prostitution by engaging in sex trafficking;
  • Adding a new class D felony, “labor trafficking,” to the penal code, with a penalty of up to 7 years in prison;
  • Making it illegal for travel-related businesses to facilitate the patronizing of prostitution, regardless of whether it’s legal in foreign jurisdictions;
  • Adding sex and labor trafficking to the eavesdropping statute;
  • Putting those convicted of sex trafficking on the sex offender registry; and
  • Increasing the penalty of “patronizing a prostitute” from a class B misdemeanor to a class A misdemeanor.

Providing needed services for victims

Human trafficking victims are often left helpless even after their captors have been discovered and put out of business by authorities. The Assembly’s legislation helps victims by:

  • Directing the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to coordinate the provision of services to human trafficking victims, including temporary housing, health and mental health treatment and drug addiction treatment;
  • Ensuring that human trafficking victims are eligible for services from the Crime Victims Board; and
  • Creating an interagency task force to report on the extent of trafficking and to make recommendations on improvements in the state’s response.

“Rather than just focus on punishing human traffickers, this comprehensive legislation creates new crimes for law enforcement to investigate, and gives victims needed services,” Hevesi said. “It would have been unethical to allow this issue to fester. New York will be a safer place when this bill is signed into law.”