Taxes and Trafficking
When the word trafficking is brought up in debate, an ominous silence sweeps over the room. Is this collectively taking a moment of reverence for the casualties of a seemingly prolific war, or because we experience the all-consuming fear that it could happen to us? Infrastructure aiming to punish offenders and aid victims involved in these crimes recently underwent an overhaul in an effort to further address this growing problem throughout major cities in Texas. Vehement support for this cause was displayed by both Democrats and Republicans, as they both recognized the seriousness of the issue.
In the Texas legislature, the most recent reform retaining widespread advancements in the approach to human trafficking is House Bill 10. This bill was authored by Democrat State Representative Senfronia Thompson in 2015, but was supported through bipartisan efforts. The bill sought to ensure greater consequences for perpetrators convicted of human trafficking, prevention of such heinous acts, and compensation for the victims. Although the law addresses all forms of trafficking, labor and sex alike, it specifically targets prevention of trafficking children.
Many structural changes were made to existing statutes and programs including the following. The statute of limitations on compelling prostitution of a child younger than 18 years of age was removed and prostitution conduct was increased to a second degree felony if the individual was under eighteen years of age. This would make offenders prostituting children eligible for sex offender registration, allowing families to be more aware of their surroundings. Claimants of child trafficking and adults who were trafficked through force, fraud or coercion can now be compensated from the Texas crime victims’ compensation fund. This expanded the eligibility to victims who may have been previously ineligible for such monetary payments. The Supreme Court of Texas and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals are now required to have judicial training, including information updates on human trafficking. The Texas Education Agency must develop policies on reporting child trafficking, in order to enable school administrators to support and safeguard their students. The Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force was reinstated for a longer period of time and the Child Sex Trafficking Prevention Unit was established within the criminal justice division of the Governor’s office. All of these measures are highly necessary, as a trafficking epidemic has become prominent in the state of Texas.
According to the Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Steven McCraw, “every day sex traffickers entice, deceive, threaten, beat, imprison, rape and force children and adults into the commercial sex industry” (Morehouse).
The adjustments and innovations included in House Bill 10 set a goal to collectively reduce the negative stigma around reporting human trafficking, and it did just that. The National Human Trafficking Hotline provides a pool of data from which reporting of trafficking incidences can clearly be seen rising after the passage of House Bill 10. The historically steady reports of human trafficking made through the National Human Trafficking Hotline drastically increased in 2016. The cases reported were not restricted to one subgroup, instead they skyrocketed across the board. Reports involving trafficking of both adults and minors rose via both phone calls and emails. Without exclusion, the increase in reports made rose from 1,547 reports made by telephone in 2012 to 2,135 in 2016 (Figure 1).
While the increase in reports may seem indicative of the rising rates of human trafficking in Texas, they reflect the positive effects of House Bill 10 in regards to the outlets in which victims could report. In 2015, before passage of the bill, there were 1,735 reports made via phone call, while there were 2,135 made in 2016, after passage of the bill (Figure 1). This was the largest leap made in human trafficking reports between consecutive years. The negative stigma of shame encasing the victims of human trafficking has been newly addressed through House Bill 10 with programs aimed at prevention, education, reporting, and compensation.
With child welfare being one of the utmost incentives during the formulation and enactment of House Bill 10, the increasing rate of child human trafficking rates reported in 2016 in Texas is an encouraging sign of the effectiveness of new programs. Between 2012 and 2016, the number of child trafficking cases reported rose from 123 to 228 (Figure 2). In the course of one year, between 2015 and 2016, cases reported rose from 150 to 228 (Figure 2).
This drastic rise reflects the emphasis House Bill 10 placed on aid to children through new policies developed by the Texas Education Agency, extermination of the statute of limitations on compelling child prostitution, and the creation of the Child Sex Trafficking Prevention Unit within the criminal justice division of the Governor’s office. All of these factors played a vital role in increasing reporting and beginning to powerfully subvert the practice of human trafficking.
Human trafficking is not a politically divisive issue, but even when coalitions come together, such a massive problem is tedious to fully solve. Data from the National Human Trafficking Hotline has proven that attacking the issue from many different points- education of teachers and courts, stiffer penalties for offenders, and compensation for victims to enable their future lives- has begun to at least reduce the stigma around reporting these infringements on human life. The act of reporting is the first of many steps to solving the considerable dilemma of human trafficking in Texas, and so predicts the rejection as a state of such hateful offenses.
Morehouse, Christal. “Combating Human Trafficking.” (2009): n. pag. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.
“National Hotline 2016 Texas State Report.” National Human Trafficking Hotline. N.p., 31 Mar. 2017. Web. 07 Apr. 2017.
“Texas Legislature Online.” House Research Organization Bill Analysis. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2017.
Thompson, Senfronia. “House Bill Summary.” TLO. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2017.