It’s been nearly 200 years since slavery was abolished in the state, but a modern form of it continues every day in plain sight.
An estimated 25 million people were trafficked across the globe in 2021, according to legislation, sponsored by Sen. Anna Kaplan, to require information to report human trafficking in some New York airports and bus terminals.
New York senators are expected to pass a bipartisan-backed five-bill package Wednesday to combat human trafficking and foster more accurate reporting about the industry that nets $150 billion worldwide annually.
“Human trafficking is a global phenomena,” said Kaplan, a Democrat from North Hills. “We know that bus terminals and airport terminals are a convenient venue for traffickers. ...We know victims are often heavily supervised and patrolled while they’re in transit.”
Kaplan sponsors two bills expected to pass the Senate on Wednesday that will mandate cards and signs with information for victims of human trafficking be posted in the restrooms of airports and bus terminals operated by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.
A reported 414 people were trafficked in the state in 2020, with 300, or about 72% reported victims of sex trafficking, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
Both bills passed the Assembly in February and March.
“It’s to help these vulnerable people and people who are really afraid that if they do anything, they’re going to face retaliation against them — there’s going to be threat’s against them,” Kaplan said. “If we could engage everybody to help with this problem, the better for all of us.”
The senator will bring the bill to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s attention, and expects the governor to swiftly sign both measures into law.
The bills slated to pass the Senate on Wednesday include:
Anti-Trafficking Airport Resources: This bill, S8262, sponsored by Sen. Anna Kaplan, requires information concerning services for human trafficking victims in airports.
Spot and Stop Trafficking Training: This bill, S7360, sponsored by Sen. James Skoufis, requires curriculum related to human trafficking awareness to be included in alcohol training awareness programs; requires such training to be developed with and approved by the New York state interagency task force on human trafficking.
State Contractor Anti-Trafficking Accountability: This bill, S8080, sponsored by Sen. Cordell Cleare, requires state contractors to submit a statement on preventing human trafficking in bids to the state and maintain a written policy for preventing human trafficking within its operations, business dealings, and supply chain and provide to the state a copy of such policy when submitting such statement.
Act to Promote Trafficking Victim Resources: This bill, S3374B, sponsored by Sen. Jamaal Bailey, promotes the education of the human trafficking information and referral hotline to assist persons in freeing themselves from severe acts of sex trafficking.
Sen. Skoufis, a Democrat from Cornwall, was inspired to sponsor his bill that will require human trafficking awareness to be included in alcohol training awareness course curriculum approved by the State Liquor Authority.
Skoufis’ legislation was inspired by a staffer who used to bar tend, as human trafficking is also prevalent in bars and restaurants.
“It’s actually surprising it’s not already a requirement and incorporated into these programs,” he said.
New York bartenders are not required to take SLA training courses under state law, but most complete it to give their employers a discount on their insurance.
Courses for bartenders approved and accredited by the SLA will be required to incorporate human trafficking education in the curriculum of third-party courses if Skoufis’ bill is signed into law.
Assembly members passed its counterpart last week.
Common signs of a case of human trafficking in a bar or restaurant include another person giving the trafficking victim’s identification card to the bartender.
“That’s usually a telltale sign,” Skoufis said. “This bill is going to make a very meaningful difference in thousands and thousands of establishments across New York state and lead to better [trafficking] reporting.”
Skoufis also expects the governor’s support to sign the bill.
“All of us have to be a little more aware of our surroundings,” Kaplan said. “If you see somebody in distress, don’t just judge them, but understand what the circumstances possibly could be. [If you] see something that possibly just doesn’t appear normal, take a little interest and see. At the end of the day, it’s going to take all of us together.”