California Senate Unanimously Passes Bill to Increase Penalties for Human Trafficking

The California Senate has unanimously passed a bill that would stiffen penalties for those that are involved in human trafficking.

In a vote of 36-0, the Senate approved of legislation that would forfeit $1.5 million from every individual that was convicted of the crime, half of which would be used for programs to fight human trafficking. Offenders also would face 15 years to life in prison.

Human Trafficking first became illegal in 2005 with the passage of the California Human Trafficking Victims Protection Act. However, the state Department of Justice says that over 65,000 children were involved in the sex-trade in the state between 2009 and 2010, while only 13 individuals were convicted. Worldwide, human trafficking is considered to be a $32 billion dollar industry.

“Sex trafficking of minors is a horrendous crime that is driven by the prospect of lucrative profits,” stated the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Senator Mark Leno. “This legislation aims to deprive convicted criminals of the financial resources and assets that would allow them to continue luring young people into the sex trade. In turn, proceeds from those forfeitures would rightfully be used to help victims begin to repair their lives.”

Leno is simultaneously pushing to pass legislation that would permit homosexuals to enter into civil unions in the state.

“The trafficking of human beings is an unseen problem in California and throughout the country,” said Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, a sponsor of the bill. “The same transnational gangs that traffic drugs and guns across our border also traffic human beings, and we must counter their threat,” she added.

Harris is also sponsoring a second bill that would help to stop offenders from hiding their illegal profits, and would ensure that victims receive restitution.

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While most consider trafficking to be only related to child prostitution, it also entails slave labor. Children may be forced to work in factories, fields and mines as slaves of their owners. It is estimated that 18% of all trafficking cases worldwide involve slave labor.

SB1133 now moves to the State Assembly floor for a vote.

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