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Posts Tagged ‘Massachusetts’

Esohe Aghatise, lawyer, PhD., founder, and director of Associazione Iroko Onlus in Turin, Italy, discusses job options with a Nigerian victim of sex trafficking. Photo by Kay Chernush for the U.S. State Department.

After amendments were considered, senate bill 1951 passed unanimously in the Massachusetts State House on June 30.  Senate bill 1951 is the senate version of the anti-human trafficking bill in Massachusetts.  The bill went to the state representatives where they decided that the bill should go into conference.  Now three members from each branch will meet to write a unified bill that will go to their respective branches to be voted on.  They will look at the two bills (SB 1951 and HR3483), and debate which aspects of the two bills that should remain in the unified bill.

This is where we, as the general public, need to tell conference committee members and leadership from the two branches what we need in this state to fight modern day slavery.  We don’t want a weak bill to come out of conference that does not address the fundamental issues of human trafficking while the politicians bask in their own praise about tackling human trafficking.

Some of the important aspects of the bill include preserving the establishment of a John school that will address the demand side of the problem.  A study by ABT revealed that the John school in San Francisco reduced recidivism by thirty percent with little cost to the city.

Other areas of concern include preserving language to train not only law enforcement officials, but also social service providers and the general public.  More non-government organizations should be part of the task force because they understand the hurdles that victims need to overcome to be able to stand on their own.

The safe harbor clause should cover all victims, not just minors.  Is it fair that a human trafficking victim that was enticed at aged 15 and caught at aged 18 by the police should be charged with a crime?  A criminal record could potentially prevent that victim from getting the job he or she needs to free themselves of a life of crime.  This is also why decreasing the penalties for selling sex by adult women should be considered as well.  It has proven effective in Sweden.

The human trafficking trust fund as outlined by the senate bill should be preserved.  More money will find its way to social service providers that will help victims.  The senate version also does a better job in protecting victim rights and services.  Some of that language can be found in Section 39K of SECTION 11 and Section 20M of SECTION 24.

I have drafted a letter that I have written myself that could be used to lobby members on the conference committee.

The members of the conference committee are:  Senator Mark Montigny of New Bedford, Sen. Bruce Tarr of Gloucester, Sen. Jennifer Flanagan of Leominster, Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty of Chelsea, Rep. Sheila Harrington of Groton, and Rep. Elizabeth Malia of Jamaica Plain.  The speaker of the Senate is Therese Murray of Plymouth.  The speaker of the House is Robert DeLeo of  Winthrop.

If there are other aspects of the bill that you think is important, feel free to include them as well.  Your voice needs to be heard.  It is important that we contact them as soon as possible.  The State House will break for a summer vacation this Friday,  July 29, so we need to call, e-mail, and write as much as we can before then.

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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.

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The summer recess is fast approaching and Massachusetts Senate Bill 58, an act relating to anti-human trafficking and protection, still sits before the Senate Ways and Means Committee.  It was passed favorably by the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities on July 15, 2009.  Over the past year, it has been waiting to be approved by the Senate Ways and Means Committee.  The bill will have to be reintroduced if it does not get approved by July 31. This means that Massachusetts would still be one of only 6 states that do not have human trafficking legislation.

I encourage you to write to the senators in this committee to encourage them to vote in favor of this bill.  I have written a draft letter that you can use to write out yourself or to e-mail.  Feel free to shorten it or include your personal reason why you think this bill should be passed.  You can also call them and simply ask them to support Senate Bill 58. This takes 5 minutes out of your day.  The members of the committee are found here. They will pay attention if 5 of you contact them on the same topic.  You can make a real difference.

WGBH recently did a 4 part report on human trafficking in New England.  You can read and listen to the report here.

I also recently learned that Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore are passionate about human trafficking. The Demi and Ashton Foundation facebook page has a tremendous amount of resources that you will pop up in your feed if you like the page.  I encourage you to like it to learn more about the problem.

Help me get Senate Bill 58 passed by contacting the members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.  Thank you.

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Robin Chan

Concerned citizens write to a number of world leaders and representatives about specific human rights cases during the 2008 Writeathon at the First Parish Church in Harvard Square on Friday night. The writeathon was in conjunction with Human Rights Day which is on December 10. Photo: Robin Chan

I survived my first writeathon over this weekend.  My elbow was soar from doing it, but it was a good soar. I wanted to write a quick post to try to continue the energy and enthusiasm from Human Rights day by asking members of the Boston Firefly Project to help me out with my campaign against trafficking.

During my search for trafficking information, I stumbled upon Massachusetts Senate Bill No. 97.  It is a bill that was drafted to put anti-human trafficking legislation in the Massachusetts lawbooks.  From my understanding, the bill is currently before the Senate Ways and Means Committee and would expire if no action is taken by December 31, 2008.

The bill was put forth by Senator Mark Montigny in 2007.  I would like to request our readers to take fifteen minutes out of your day and write to your state representative and state senator and ask them what is the status of State Senate Bill No. 97 and to encourage them to act before the bill expires.  You may have to use the traditional letter writing approach as my state senator apparently does not accept e-mail. Remember, “all politics is local” as Tip O’Neill once said.  Change starts with you.  Thank you.

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