For years Texas has battled with the federal government over a variety of issues

For years Texas has battled with the federal government over a variety of issues. Issues such as laws, policies, environmental concerns, social and educational problems. A major issue that has dramatically increased and continues to grow is human trafficking. For the most part, the federal government is doing their best to fight against the booming industry of human trafficking. Policies have been put into action, task forces have been created and steps have been taken to put an end to this unthinkable crime. However, Texas ranks third as a state with the highest rate of human trafficking. The state government has repeatedly done little to help combat this criminal industry or provide help for trafficking victims.
Human trafficking raises issues for both the federal government and the state government. In an effort to combat the growing industry of trafficking, several policies have been established. The Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) is used as a tool to effectively prosecute members of organized crime, such as traffickers. The Mann Act of 1910, criminalizes the transporting of minors and adults across state borders or to foreign countries for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex. The PROTECT Act of 2003, established intense penalties for individuals exploiting children sexually for personal gain, both within the United States and in other countries; It pushed for the use of Amber Alert System and other methods of alerting the public to missing, exploited, and abducted children; and grants for transitional housing for child victims of sexual assault. In 2000, the Trafficking Victim Protection Act called for the establishment of the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking to coordinate anti-trafficking efforts among various U.S. Federal government agencies. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, shares in the National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking that, “Collaboration at all levels is critical. At the federal level, for example, we have been gratified by the success of our ACTeam Initiative – a joint effort among the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Justice” (Lynch L. pg. 2). Over the past several years the Texas state government has accomplished little to help fight against human trafficking. A major issue that contributes to the rise of human trafficking is immigration within the state borders. Texas ranks seventh among the states with the highest immigration population. The largest population of youths at risk of being trafficked is centered in Houston, Texas. Due to its location, immigrant community and large economy the immigrant population is rapidly growing. Immigrants accounts for seventeen percent of Texas’s total population and they support the local economy in a growing number of industries. One in six Texas residents is an immigrant, whereas fifteen percent of residents are native-born U.S. citizens. Even with this rise and immigration and the role it plays in the human trafficking industry, the state government has done little to combat it. Several months ago, a Texas article revealed how the state’s crusade against sex trafficking has done little to help victims, specifically children. The 2017 legislative session mainly continued the lawmakers’ trend of focusing on criminals rather than finding ways to help victims of human trafficking.
In order to effectively combat the booming industry of human trafficking within the state of Texas, changes to current policies must be made. For example, The governor’s office received $1.3 million per year to create a grant program specifically for child-trafficking victims, aiming to provide them with services like housing and counseling. However, lawmakers revised the proposal to create a $3 million grant program aimed at helping all trafficking victims. This pattern first began in 2009, when lawmakers called for the creation of a $10 million-per-year victim assistance program but never appropriated the money for it. Trafficking victims often times end up in the criminal justice system themselves for charges like prostitution, drug possession and theft. These are crimes that their trafficker may have forced them to commit and now they are responsible for paying the consequence. A bill that would have helped expunge their criminal records sailed through the House but died in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. Another bill aimed at reducing penalties for selling sex never received a vote in either chamber. One of the biggest issues that must be solved is funding for programs and laws, Time and time again the state government has created laws that serve to help trafficking victims, yet no money is every granted to these programs. An anti-trafficking bill was passed in 2011 aiming to establish funding for victims by forcing convicted child traffickers to pay them restitution. However, restitution depends on a defendant’s ability to pay, which is often limited. None of the victims that were interviewed later on said they received any money after their traffickers were imprisoned. Another example, occured in 2015 when Bill HB 418 was passed allowing police to take “emergency possession” of sex-trafficking victims. Police would then place them in secure facilities providing everything from 24-hour supervision to counseling. However, no such facility exists, and no funding has ever been allocated to create one. Without granting funding to these programs no change will ever come about.
With human trafficking growing at a rapid pace, how can the government put an end to this devastating crime. Texas has passed several laws in an attempt to combat human trafficking. However, the money to support these laws and programs created never surfaces, thus rendering them useless. One way to improve Texas’s fight efforts is to spend actual state dollars on victim services. Funding treatment beds is an incredible way the state could help innocent victims. The state currently does not offer any money to build safe houses that treat child sex-trafficking victims, they rely on the private investors to do so. Creating emergency beds is another way the Texas state government could improve the human trafficking issue. The state needs to fund facilities that offer child sex-trafficking victims a safe place to stay on an emergency basis. For instance, when they are recovered by law enforcement in the middle of the night. Currently, there is not a single facility that exist in Texas. As a result of this,many victims end up in jail after they are recovered by police because they have nowhere else to go. While researching ways other state governments aid trafficking victims and prosecute traffickers I came across the Change A Path Organization. Based in San Francisco, California, the Change A Path Organization describes themselves as a, “volunteer donor circle that gives grants to not-for-profit organizations working to fight sex trafficking, both domestically and internationally.” This organization was created by volunteers but was later backed by the California State government as a sign of support. Texas has a similar organizations such as, The Heart of Texas Human Trafficking Coalition. It partners with the federal government to advance the fight against human trafficking. They increase community awareness for the prevention and identification of human trafficking victims. Increase investigation and prosecution of human trafficking cases at a local, state and federal level. They even provide coordinated, comprehensive, trauma-informed services to the individualized needs of human trafficking victims. The Heart of Texas Human Trafficking Coalition was established in 2015 to unite professionals from area agencies to collaborate in the fight against human trafficking. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice, awarded a grant in order to fund the development of the coalition. This grant allowed the creation of several positions including a full-time human trafficking investigator and case manager, as well as additional assistance for victims of severe forms of human trafficking. Programs like the coalition are incredible and help further the fight against human trafficking. Along with funding, protective services for victims of human trafficking should also be encouraged among the state government. The continued focus on criminal enforcement is great. For example, this year the Legislature increased the penalty for “promotion of prostitution.” People charged with promotion aren’t suspected of just selling sex but also of benefiting from the transaction by driving the seller to meet the buyer or posting an advertisement for sex online. Prosecutors say increasing the penalty will help discourage people from getting involved in human trafficking. The only issue with this is opponents worry it will unintentionally sweep up trafficking victims, too. Many times victims are caught in the act of a crime and forced to pay the consequences. Even though these victims were only committing these crimes at the hand of their pimps. The state government must stop treating victims as if they are criminals. It is common for police to arrest sex-trafficking victims because there is no other place for them to go. They always arrest them to ensure that they will testify against their pimp. It is common for trafficking victims to have a criminal background. They often times can have multiple arrests for prostitution, This becomes a felony after three convictions. Criminal records like this make it difficult and even impossible for victims to get jobs or apartments and rebuild their lives. Advocates say with legislation this issue could be solved by allowing victims to get their records expunged or sealed. Some people suggest that the age of adulthood should be raised to eighteen or even older to keep sex trafficking victims out of jail. Another major way the state government could improve the human trafficking issue is by supporting diversion programs. In 2013 a state law authorized diversion programs for children involved in the sex trade. If they complete the program, their criminal records are sealed. However, the three diversion programs in the state are only supported by local funding and have long waiting lists. State funding for diversion programs could drastically changed the future of trafficking victims. A crucial issue that the state government could improve is keeping track and finding missing children. Federal law says all missing foster kids are supposed to be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. In reality, many children are reported by child welfare officials. The Polaris Project reported that, “Houston is home to almost 6,000 runaway minors and immigrants and an estimated 1 in 3 runaways are lured in sex trafficking within 48 hours of running away from home” (Polaris). Keeping better records for runaways and children in the foster system could drastically decrease the number of trafficking victims. Each project and program requires funding which is always a battle within the government but action must be taken to end this criminal industry.
With any government funded program there are pros and cons. The pros in this situation is that the money is being put to good use. The money donated by the government is not going to build new government buildings or fancy highways. Instead, it is being spent on society’s most vulnerable individuals in an attempt to save their lives. These victims do not deserve anymore empty promises or bills that do not bring true change. The costs are high in terms of funding these programs, such as safe houses for woman and children rescued from traffickers. Setting funds aside for children who have been sold into sex slavery is costly, but is a life not worth more? Texas must stop allowing funding to be stripped down but rather put the money granted by the federal government to good use. The cons to increasing funding for human trafficking cases is that it takes away money from other budgets.
Texas has proven that it cannot be trusted to handle the responsibility of raising money and funding important programs to combat the issue of human trafficking. Budget monitoring from the federal government would create accountability for the state. Rather than passing bills that claim to fund safe houses and refuge for victims but never actually get built. These projects would actually come to life. Another major way to improve the fight against human trafficking is keeping better records on foster children as well as missing children. These are the vulnerable and desperate people that need protection and help. With the federal government’s help in initiated funding and a better record system the human trafficking issue in Texas could decrease dramatically.