AUSTIN, Texas — There are more than 300,000 victims of human trafficking in Texas, and the push to end the modern day form of slavery is once again ramping up as lawmakers get back to work.
- Rally held Tuesday at Texas Capitol
- Elected officials discussed proposals
At a rally Tuesday, lawmakers joined dozens of advocates from different organizations to call for tougher anti-human trafficking laws. Elected officials discussed some proposals for the legislative session, which includes reexamining services in the state’s foster care system.
“We have such a large population. One out of 11 kids in the United States lives in Texas now. The [Child Protective Services] system needs a lot of work. Eighty-eight percent of the kids nationwide can come from the foster care system. It is a state problem,” said Steven Phenix, director of public relations and communications for The Refuge for Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking.
Last August, The Refuge for DMST opened a therapeutic ranch to serve young survivors of sex trafficking. Some bills would implement tougher punishments to the people profiting from the crimes. Another piece legislation would help educators recognize the signs of abuse.
Rep. Senfronia Thompson, who represents District 141, said she wants to help the criminal records of survivors.
“The hardest pieces of legislation to pass is legislation actually benefitting women, and that has been a piece of legislation that I have been trying to pass for a long time and I’m filing it this session. Because I think if you have been forced into something and you can prove that you are a victim of it, you are ought to be able to get relief and that is having your record expunged,” Thompson said.
The fight for new legislation is personal for John Clark, of Operation Texas Shield.
“My daughter made friends with people over social media that she thought she could trust and they were really bad people and they intended to harm her the whole time and they set her up. She wound up getting in the car with the wrong guy and it wound up being a really hard thing. It took us a while to get her back and healing and recovery is an incredibly long process after something like that happened,” said Clark.