Human trafficking in Texas
|Part of the common law series|
|Element (criminal law)|
|Scope of criminal liability|
|Seriousness of offense|
|Offence against the person|
|Crimes against property|
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|Other groups of rights|
Human trafficking in Texas is the illegal trade of human beings for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor and a modern-day form of slavery as it occurs in the state of Texas.
Federal law prohibits recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining persons for the purpose of forced labor or commercial sex acts. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) defines sex trafficking as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age. Labor trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, traffickers often operate by:
- Using violence or threatening the person or the person’s family members;
- Harming or depriving the person of basic necessities, such as food, water, or sleep;
- Making false promises of love or companionship;
- Making false promises of a good job and home;
- Restricting contact with family or friends;
- Limiting freedom of movement;
- Controlling the individual’s identification documents;
- Threatening law enforcement action or deportation;
- Garnishing the person’s salary to pay off alleged debts; and/or
- Preventing the victim from attending religious services.
Sex trafficking in Texas has been known to occur in strip clubs, spas, massage parlors, modeling studios, cantinas, and residential brothels, in hotels, motels, apartments, and residential houses. Labor trafficking has been known to occur in the agricultural, restaurant, and nail salon industries, as well as domestic servitude, peddling, begging, or with traveling sales crews.
- 1 History
- 2 Laws and policies
- 2.1 78th Texas State Legislature
- 2.2 80th Texas State Legislature
- 2.3 81st Texas State Legislature
- 2.4 82nd Texas State Legislature
- 2.5 83rd Texas State Legislature
- 3 Organizations
- 4 Trafficking in Houston
- 5 See also
- 6 References
Legal slavery ended in Texas in the 1860s after the Emancipation Proclamation and end of the Civil War. Illegal slavery continued, and has increased in recent years.
Based on a study released by the Dallas Women's Foundation, sex trafficking of young girls is not an isolated phenomenon, but a widespread criminal activity in Texas. The research found that 740 girls under age 18 were documented being marketed for sex during a 30-day period in Texas, of whom 712 of these girls were being marketed through Internet classified web sites and 28 were being marketed through escort services. More information concluded from the research is that there are more girls being trafficked for sex in Texas during one month than there are women killed in domestic violence with former or current husbands, intimate partners or boyfriends in Texas over an entire year. There are more girls being trafficked for sex in Texas during one month than there are females of all ages who died from complication due to AIDS in one year in Texas. And finally, there are more girls being trafficked for sex in Texas during one month than there are teen girls who died by suicide, homicide, and accidents in the state in one year.
Laws and policies
There are several pieces of legislation in place in Texas working to combat human trafficking. Recent legislation passed in Texas mandates that all incoming local law enforcement receive training on human trafficking. In Houston specifically, one of the primary elements of the Juvenile Justice System in Harris County is the Juvenile Probation Department (HCJPD). HCJPD is “committed to the protection of the public, utilizing intervention strategies that are community-based, family-oriented and least restrictive while emphasizing responsibility and accountability of both parent and child.” Feeding into HCJPD is the juvenile court system that includes five juvenile courts (each with a different judge presiding), a juvenile mental health court, and a juvenile drug court.
78th Texas State Legislature
The 78th Texas State Legislature passed a bill called, the House Bill 2096 (Penal Code Ch. 20A.02), which prohibits trafficking in persons. The offense is categorized as a second-degree felony, with an enhancement to a first-degree felony for involving a child younger than 14 years of age, or any trafficking offense that results in the death of the trafficked person. Section 20A.01 established definitions for “forced labor or services” and “trafficking,” and § 20A.02 outlined offenses and penalties. This bill became effective September 1, 2003.
80th Texas State Legislature
House Bill 1121
House Bill 1121, which revises Texas Penal Code Section 20A to strengthen definition of human trafficking and elements of the offense: One of the main obstacles in verifying that human trafficking has occurred under the original Section 20A provisions is due to the limited definition of “forced labor” and the required element of transportation. House Bill 1121 (HB 1121) expands the definition to include threatened actions and removes the requirement that the victim must be physically transported for the offense to be present. These provisions were incorporated from Senate Bill 1283/House Bill 3370. HB 1121 also enables judges to issue an official verification, or judicial finding, that a victim is truly a victim of trafficking, as defined by the federal law. With the passage of this law, more victims will be able to use this judicial finding in order to obtain a T-VISA and be eligible for services available to holders of T-VISAs. This bill became effective immediately.
Senate Bill 1287 and Senate Bill 1288
This legislator also passed the Senate Bill 1287 and Senate Bill 1288 – requires posting of rescue hotline in certain establishments: Victims of human trafficking very rarely self-identify because of fear and lack of resources. Eighty-percent of human trafficking victims work in locations where alcohol is served. Senate Bill 1287 (SB 1287) was passed mandating that bars post a sign in both English and Spanish about forced labor and a toll-free referral number for victims of trafficking. The sign must be displayed in a clear and visible manner to the public and employees. Senate Bill 1288 (SB 1288) also requires a sign to be posted with a toll-free referral number for victims in hotels or motels pending the final disposition of common nuisance lawsuits. SB 1287 Effective Date: Sept. 1, 2007. SB 1288 This bill became effective immediately.
House Bill 1751
They also passed the House Bill 1751, which establishes an account to fund grants to support programs for sexual assault victims, human trafficking victims, and human trafficking investigations: The majority of human trafficking victims are women and children who are forced to perform sexual labor. House Bill 1751 (HB 1751) imposes an entrance fee of $5 for admission to certain sexually oriented businesses. The fees collected are to be sent to the Comptroller who shall deposit the first $25 million received from this fee during a state fiscal biennium to the credit of the sexual assault program fund. The bill also provides that the attorney general may award grants out of this fund to support a variety of programs providing services to, or otherwise benefiting, sexual assault victims and human trafficking victims including grants to support sexual assault and human trafficking prosecution projects. While HB 1751 did not incorporate the specific language of Senate Bill 1286/House Bill 3374 (which would have established a dedicated account providing grants to counties to investigate and prosecute human trafficking cases), HB 1751 does allow for grants to be allocated out of the sexual assault program fund for such projects. Effective Date: January 1, 2008. Legislation Filed But Not Adopted During 80th Legislature.
81st Texas State Legislature
House Bill 4009
They passed the House Bill 4009, which establishes a victim assistance program for domestic human trafficking victims. It includes the maintenance of a searchable database of assistance programs for domestic victims, and establishes a program to award grants to public and nonprofit organizations that provide assistance to domestic victims, promote public awareness activities, conduct community outreach and training, help in victim identification, and/or offer legal services. HB 4009 also requires training programs and an outreach initiative for judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement personnel to increase awareness of the needs of domestic victims and the services available under the program. Finally, the bill requires the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to conduct a study to identify additional revenue streams for the victim assistance program. HHSC must submit a report on the study to the 82nd Legislature no later than December 1, 2010. Amendments to HB 4009 include designation of a statewide human trafficking task force to improve data collection and align existing state resources to fight human trafficking and a mandated training of law enforcement officers to enable them to identify human trafficking victims. Additionally, the amendments revised the Compelling Prostitution statute to make it consistent with the Human Trafficking statute by raising the age of minors from under 17 to under18 and created a defense to prostitution for victims of human trafficking. Lastly, it created liability for the trafficker regardless of whether he knew the victim was a minor and requires the executive director of the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission (TJPC) to establish a committee to evaluate certain alternatives to the juvenile justice system for children who are accused of engaging in acts of prostitution. Effective Date: September 1, 2009.
House Bill 533
The House Bill 533 creates civil liability for human traffickers by providing victims with an avenue to sue their traffickers. Traffickers cannot use as a defense to liability that they have been acquitted of or not prosecuted for human trafficking, or convicted of a different offense that is alleged to have given rise to liability. Plaintiffs who prevail may recover actual damages including mental anguish as well as exemplary damages, and any reasonable attorney fees. Effective Date: Immediately.
House Bill 3094
The House Bill 3094, creates liability for operating an illegitimate “massage parlor” in counties with a population of 3.3 million or more, which, as of 2012 projections, applied only to Harris County: the next largest population in 2012 (Dallas County) was estimated at 2.5 million. A district or county attorney may bring a suit to enjoin the operation of the offending massage parlor. The offense is considered a Class A misdemeanor and civil penalties may also be brought in district court of up to $1,000 per violation. Each day a violation continues is considered a separate violation. The penalties provided for in this bill are in addition to any other penalties that may be allowed under the law. Effective Date: Immediately.
Senate Bill 707
The Senate Bill 707 requires sexually oriented businesses to maintain proper identification records for their employees or independent contractors. SB 707 specifies that proper identification includes: 1) Physical description and photograph; 2) Date of birth of the person; 3) Be issued by a government agency (driver’s license, passport or another state issued ID). The record must be kept for up to two years after the last day of employment. The Texas Workforce Commission, the Attorney General, or local law enforcement shall be allowed to inspect the records maintained if there is good reason to believe that a child does work or did work at the sexually oriented business within the previous two years. A business fails to comply if it fails to maintain a record or knowingly or intentionally hinders an authorized inspection. Effective Date: September 1, 2009
House Bill 960
The House Bill 960 gives a municipality or county the right to access National Crime Information Center criminal history record information for the purposes of obtaining information regarding persons applying for a license to operate a sexually oriented business in the municipality or county. Effective Date: Immediately.
82nd Texas State Legislature
Summary of Adopted Legislation provided by Children At Risk
Senate Bill 24
The Senate Bill 24 expands the definition of the offense of trafficking in the Penal Code to specifically address child trafficking and implements enhanced penalties when a child victim is involved; also adds language pertaining to prostitution; promotion of prostitution; and compelling prostitution. Eliminates the statute of limitations to bring a felony indictment for trafficking of persons or compelling prostitution when a child victim is involved, and extends the statute of limitations for adult victims to ten years. Lowers the prosecutorial burden for defendants of child trafficking or compelling prostitution by admittance of evidence of extraneous offenses. Prohibits eligibility for community supervision for persons convicted of human trafficking or compelling prostitution. Extends the civil statute of limitations for personal injury to 5 years (previously 2 years) for victims of trafficking and compelling prostitution. Requires involuntary termination of parental rights for parents who have been convicted or placed on community supervision for harming a child as a result of a trafficking or compelling prostitution offense. Requires life imprisonment for convicted child traffickers. Effective Date: September 1, 2011.
House Bill 2014
The House Bill 2014 addresses TABC procedures – must refuse reissuance of license for one year if license previously cancelled in prior year for prostitution or trafficking. Denial of bail for violation of condition of bond if offense committed is against a child younger than 14 years of age (trafficking or prostitution). Mandatory restitution for child victims of prostitution or compelling prostitution under age 18 – court ordered in the amount necessary for rehabilitation. Includes property used in the commission of HT to be included on the list of contraband that can be forfeited. Requires defendants of trafficking and compelling prostitution to be included in the computerized criminal history system. Increases penalty to third degree felony for Johns if child solicited 14 or older but younger than 18. Effective Date: September 1, 2011.
House Bill 3000
The House Bill 3000 establishes “Continuous Trafficking of Persons” offense for persons who traffic two or more times during a period of 30 days or more. Effective Date: September 1, 2011.
83rd Texas State Legislature
House Bill 8
This bill makes the offense of soliciting a person under 18 to engage in prostitution or receiving proceeds from the prostitution of a person under 18, into a second degree felony rather than a Class A misdemeanor. HB8 authorizes trafficking victims to conceal their addresses through the Address Confidentiality Program and includes victims of trafficking to the list of people eligible to receive rent and relocation benefits from the Crime Victims’ Compensation Program. This bill addresses both the criminality of trafficking, and the opens services to victims. HB8 passed was passed to engrossment on April 16, 2011.
House Bill 91 and Senate Bill 92
These two identical bills seek to prevent juvenile trafficking victims from being prosecuted as adults by creating a pre-adjudication diversion program for juveniles who are involved in prostitution. The program would provide that those juveniles involved would receive services and treatment. SB92 has passed the Senate and is currently under review by the House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee.
House Bill 1272 and Senate Bill 93
These two identical bills authorize continuation of the Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force until September 1, 2015. HB 1272 passed the House on April 11, 2013, and is currently under review by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.
Senate Bill 94
SB94 would give the victims of human trafficking the legal means to sue traffickers and advertisers, including online classified advertising sites for civil damages. SB94 would create liability for any website that fails to remove advertisements posted by human traffickers or businesses utilizing the services of trafficked victims. Of the four trafficking bills introduced in the 83rd Legislature, SB94 is expected to garner the most opposition, since some see censorship of these sorts of websites as violation of First Amendment rights. SB94 was reported from committee on April 9, 2013.
- Coalition Against Human Trafficking: works to increase community awareness of human trafficking and coordinate the identification, assistance, and protection of victims through community education, advocacy, provision of culturally and linguistically sensitive victim services, and efforts to ensure the investigation and prosecution of human traffickers.
- Free the Captives: a Christian-based NGO that has objectives including educating the community, preventing, and intervening in the trafficking of at-risk teens, reducing the demand, and pursuing legal remedies to combat trafficking.
- Houston Rescue and Restore: confronts modern-day slavery by educating the public, training professionals, and empowering the community to take action for the purpose of identifying, rescuing, and restoring trafficking victims to freedom.
- Innocence Lost
- Love146: an international non-profit organization dedicated to the abolition of child exploitation and sex trafficking by providing survivor care, prevention education, professional training, and encouraging grassroots empowering movements.
- Mosaic Family Services: operates the Services for Victims of Trafficking Program that provides culturally and linguistically competent services to victims experiencing abuse, so that they may quickly recover from a criminal act.
- Texas Association Against Sexual Assault: educates rape centers and domestic violence shelters throughout Texas about human trafficking.
Trafficking in Houston
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Houston, Texas is one of the nation’s largest hubs for human trafficking. There are over 200 active brothels in Houston with two new opening each month. Houston is home to more strip clubs and illicit spas than Las Vegas; these businesses serve as fronts for sex trafficking.
The main factors that contribute to high levels of trafficking through Houston and the rest of Texas are proximity, demographics, and a large migrant labor force. Houston’s proximity to the Mexican border, I-10, a highway running across country through Houston, and the port of Houston make it a popular point of entry for international trafficking. Additionally, the presence of two large airports provides ways in and out of the city. Houston’s huge geographic size and large Hispanic population create optimal conditions for trafficking because of the ability to blend in with the community. There are large Asian and Middle Eastern populations that allow traffickers and their victims to blend easily into local communities.
Also, Texas businesses employ migrant labors in many different sectors throughout the state; such as textiles, agriculture, restaurants, construction, and domestic work. This vast diversity makes it difficult for law enforcement to concentrate on any one labor sector and be effective in ending human trafficking. Not only do these industries attract traffickers, but also the already very large and developed commercially sexually oriented business community draws a large number of traffickers/pimps to Houston to make money. Multiple sporting events, conventions, and other large festivities also make Houston a prime location for trafficking. Proof for the high level of trafficking in Houston includes the high majority of calls to National Trafficking Hotline coming from Houston.
- Human trafficking in the United States
- Human trafficking in Michigan
- Human trafficking in California
- "18 U.S. Code § 1590". http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/granule/USCODE-2011-title18/USCODE-2011-title18-partI-chap77-sec1590/content-detail.html. GPO.
- "FACT SHEET: HUMAN TRAFFICKING". U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved 1 August 2014.
- "Definition of Human Trafficking". Homeland Security. Retrieved 1 August 2014.
- "What Is Human Trafficking? | Houston Rescue and Restore Coalition." Houston Rescue and Restore Coalition. Web. 17 Mar. 2012. <http://www.houstonrr.org/human-trafficking/what-is-human-trafficking/>.
- "Hundreds of Young Girls Are Victimized in Texas Sex Trade Each MonthDallas Women's Foundation." Texas Non Profits. Web. 13 Apr. 2012. <http://txnp.org/Article/?ArticleID=12913>.
- "Central Texas Coalition Against Human Trafficking." CTCAHT. Web. 17 Mar. 2012. <http://ctcaht.org/>.
- Web. 16 Mar. 2012. <http://www.houstonrr.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Domestic-Minor-Sex-Trafficking-Field-Assessment-Harris-and-Galveston-Cty.pdf>.
- http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/chs/popdat/st2012.shtm. Retrieved 5 September 2013. Missing or empty
- Texas House of Representatives. "House Bill 8".
- Texas State Senate. "Senate Bill 92".
- Texas State Senate. "Senate Bill 93".
- Chammah, Maurice (November 21, 2012). "Lawmakers Expect Fight Against Anti-Trafficking Bill". The Texas Tribune. Retrieved 17 April 2013.
- "HumanTrafficking.org | United States of America: Non-Governmental Organizations." HumanTrafficking.org: A Web Resource for Combating Human Trafficking in the East Asia Pacific Region. Web. 13 Apr. 2012. <http://humantrafficking.org/countries/united_states_of_america/ngos>.
- "About Free the Captives." Free the Captives: Anti-human Trafficking, Houston, TX. Web. 13 Apr. 2012. <http://www.freethecaptiveshouston.com/about.php>.
- "Mission, Vision, Values | Houston Rescue and Restore Coalition." Houston Rescue and Restore Coalition. Web. 13 Apr. 2012. <http://www.houstonrr.org/about-us/mission-vision-values/>.
- "Love146". Love146.
- "Free Our City." Free Our City. Web. 17 Mar. 2012. <http://freeourcity.org/>.
- Rescue & Restore Coalition. "Texas Facts on Human Traffickin."Texasimpact.org/UMW/HumanTraffickFactSheet.doc. Web. 22 Feb. 2012.
- "HumanTrafficking.org | News & Updates: Houston, Texas Major Hub for Human Trafficking." HumanTrafficking.org: A Web Resource for Combating Human Trafficking in the East Asia Pacific Region. Web. 17 Mar. 2012. <http://www.humantrafficking.org/updates/807>.