As you may have heard, the Massachusetts state of representatives passed a human trafficking bill unanimously. HR.3470 is the bill that is supported by AG Martha Coakley. It criminalizes the activity, creates a taskforce, and allows for the court to order restitution to victims if they win the case. While this is certainly a step in the right direction, we need to do more for the victims. If we do not provide the services that they need, I believe that it is highly likely that they will fall back into slavery. S820/S1921 sponsored by Mark Montigny will provide more services for victims. We should ask for as much as we can now to be in a stronger bargaining position if we have to compromise.
S1921 appears to be S820 without the minimum sentencing and with a more defined Safe Harbor clause. Safe harbor would allow prostitutes under the age of 18 to be considered victims and not a criminal if they are picked up by the police during a raid. This is important because they may have a criminal record that would be detrimental in living an independent life.
Human trafficking is as much a domestic problem as it is an international one. Many girls who are caught up in this problem are runaways or those who have been kidnapped like the Quincy teen who was forced into slavery this past May.
My real concern is that traffickers will continue to be let go even if the Coakley bill does become law. To prove that it is a trafficking case, you have to prove that the trafficker coerced the victim. The victims’ testimony is critical in proving coercion. Without it, the trafficker may get off with a lesser crime. Without services, the victim may be less likely to testify in court because they may be forced to earn money back in the trade to support themselves. If it is a labor trafficking victim (agriculture especially), they may not even remain in the state. This is one way I feel like we can get more victim services back into the bill to show the legislators that they may still fail in getting traffickers locked up.
We could ask for a line item that would provide money for a safehouse. As it stands in S820, it would be subject to appropriation. Another concern I have is that the Coakley bill mentions corporations would be subject to the new law. Small businesses like nail salons, massage parlors, and restaurants are the ones that are often the ones that enslave their workers. When I think of corporation, I think of Wal Mart, Marriott, or McDonalds, not the Korean Massage Therapy or Hadley Massage Therapy. I want to make sure that those businesses too will be subject to the new law.
Here are the members of the senators on the ways and means committee. Steven Baddour, Jennifer Flanagan, Michael Moore, Karen Spilka, Brian Joyce, Thomas McGee, Richard Moore, and Gale Candaras have cosponsored Montigny’s S.820 bill at the start of the session. It is just as important to thank them and ask for their continued support for the bill. S820 could go before the ways and means committee soon. I hope that some of you would have the time to contact a few members of the ways and means committee to ask them to support 820 because victims deserve more. Senate President Therese Murray should also be called/ written to.
I have drafted my own letter that I’ve sent to members on the committee. This is the letter that Not For Sale, an organization I’m also a part of, is asking their members to send this letter. Feel free to include your own personal reason why you think more victim provisions is important in the human trafficking bill. In fact, that would even be better.
Thank you for your help in this important cause. A hollow victory is not enough. We must pass a bill that will give the victims a chance to stand on their own.