Lawmakers promise to pass sex trafficking legislation

AUSTIN -- More than 10,000 Texas children run away each year, and within 48 hours, one out of three will already be lured into the sex trade, according to Children At Risk.

On Thursday, advocates and Texas lawmakers met at the Texas State Capitol to announce a package of bills they said they will pass this legislative session.

Katie Pedigo, executive director of New Friends New Life, an organization that works with formerly trafficked and sexually exploited girls and women, said Texas has the second-most human trafficking in the United States. In fact, according to state data, Texas accounts for almost 14 percent of all calls received by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, second only to California.

Children at Risk said girls are usually between 12 and 14 years old when they are lured into the sex trade, and once trafficked, they only live six to seven years.

Proposed legislation could mean more protection for victims and increased punishment for child pornography and sex trafficking buyers, especially when it comes to children.

"The federal standard is to have elevated sentences for that crime, and Texas does not," said Rep. Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound). "We are not going to allow our girls to be sold. We are not going to allow this to happen in Texas. It's not right. It's a modern day form of slavery. It's a human rights issue of our time."

Texas already has a human trafficking task force. House Bill 188, sponsored by Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston), would require the task force to develop increased penalties for traffickers.

HOUSE BILL 188: Read full text of human trafficking bill

According to The Texas Department of Public Safety, state agencies have gotten reports of more than 1,000 suspected human trafficking incidents since 2007. As of January 2014, there are only 99 inmates in Texas jails convicted of human trafficking or compelling prostitution.


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