2008-01-09 / Features

Maloney Urges Senate: 'Pass Tough Human Anti-Trafficking Law'

BY JOHN TOSCANO

Maloney, joined by City Councilmember Helen Sears, held a rally at City Hall to drum up support for the legislation. Maloney, joined by City Councilmember Helen Sears, held a rally at City Hall to drum up support for the legislation. Following House passage of legislation which authorizes critical funding to combat sex trafficking and help its victims, Congressmember Carolyn Maloney petitioned Senate leaders to make sure the upper houses pass an equally strong measure.

Maloney, joined by City Councilmember Helen Sears, held a rally at City Hall to drum up support for the legislation. At the rally, Sears, a strong advocate of the anti-trafficking movement, announced she would introduce a resolution also urging Senate leaders to pass a tough anti-trafficking law.

Maloney (D- Queens/ Manhattan) stated, "We need a strong bill to ensure that the punishments for human trafficking fit this terrible crime. Make no mistake: human trafficking is 21st century slavery. The House bill gives prosecutors the tools they need to hold traffickers accountable and better protect trafficking victims."

Sears (D- Jackson Heights) praised Maloney for her persistent efforts to have the federal government "recognize its responsibility to do everything it can to stop this horrendous betrayal to human beings".

Sears also noted that the City Council has passed a human trafficking initiative that is nearing passage.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D- Manhattan) stated at the rally, "The practice of human trafficking is a worldwide problem that requires a worldwide solution that we in the U.S. should be taking the lead on."

Quinn said the House had shown the way by passing a tough bill and the Senate should follow its lead and pass an equally tough measure.

Maloney explained that the House-passed bill, in addition to authorizing critical funding, also would allow the Department of Justice (DOJ) to prosecute traffickers without having to prove fraud, force or coercion, or a victim's status as a minor. Instead, the law would allow prosecutors to use these aggravating circumstances as the basis for enhanced penalties.

Currently, the law requires testimony from a traumatized victim who has reason to fear the consequences for herself or her family if she testifies, Maloney said. By eliminating the need for victims to testify about force, fraud or coercion, prosecutors will have a more effective way to crack down on traffickers. The law would also require the U.S. Attorney General to conduct a biennial survey of trafficking in the United States.

In her letter to the Senate leaders, Maloney stated: "The lives of trafficking victims are pure horror; many are tricked into the country, fooled into believing that they will be doing legitimate jobs. They arrive, many of them with limited English skills, or are picked up as runaways at U.S. bus stations, and have everything taken from them. Their documents, if they have any, are held by their trafficker. They see very little of the money they earn."

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