2007-06-01 / Community

Pheffer Lauds New Human Trafficking Bill

Assemblywoman Audrey I. Pheffer has announced that the Assembly, Senate and Governor have come to a bipartisan agreement on legislation she sponsored cracking down on human trafficking and providing services to victims.

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. In some cases, physical force is used. In other cases, false promises are made regarding job opportunities or marriages in foreign countries. 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 victims 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 Crimes, "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 laborers or servants."

"Human trafficking is simply modern-day slavery," said Pheffer. "It's a horrible practice that occurs both in our country and throughout the world. It's vital that we make the despicable people who engage in human trafficking know that New York isn't the place to do it." The Assembly passed the Anti-Human Trafficking Act of 2006 last year, but it stalled in the Senate. This year's bipartisan agreement has nine major facets:

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;

Directing the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to coordinate the provision of services to sex trafficking victims, including temporary housing, health and mental health treatment and drug addiction treatment;

Ensuring that sex trafficking victims are eligible for services from the Crime Victims Board;

Increasing the penalty of "patronizing a prostitute" from a class B misdemeanor to a class A misdemeanor; and

Creating an interagency task force to report on the extent of trafficking and to make recommendations on improvements in the state's response.

"This bipartisan agreement gets to the root of human trafficking, and will produce real results here in New York," said Pheffer. "It's immoral to let human suffering go unchecked, which is why this issue was such a priority for this year's session. With this law in place, our state's excellent law enforcement personnel can truly hold sex traffickers accountable for their heinous actions."

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