U.S. Sen. John Cornyn was in Dallas Tuesday for a roundtable discussion on a new federal law targeting human traffickers and supporting victims. “This is modern-day slavery,” he said during the meeting. “Young women primarily being held against their will being required to provide sex to people who purchase those services.”
Also, this legislative session, the Texas Attorney General’s Office’s Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force is submitting 14 proposals for legislative changes. All of this is happening because sex trafficking – and human trafficking, in general – are big problems in Texas. The Office of the Attorney General estimates that 234,000 people in Texas are victims of labor trafficking at any given time, and the State Department lists Texas in the top three states for human trafficking in U.S. overall.
Assistant Attorney General Melissa Holman is with the office’s Human Trafficking division, and says, “When people cite the top-three statistic, generally what they’re looking at is the number of calls into the human-trafficking hotline.”
Holman says in a large state like Texas, there’s not only a large supply of trafficking victims, but also a large demand for sex with these exploited people. Those who experience sex trafficking are most often minors.
Holman says those who experience labor trafficking are usually immigrants who don’t have legal status in the U.S.
“So, say that you’re a trafficking victim and you do have legal status, but that status is provided through your employer,” Holman says. “Your employer, if they have ill intent, can basically tell you, ‘If you leave this job or if you do anything that displeases me, I’ll make sure that you get deported.'”
Holman says that organizations like the Texas Workforce Commission and Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid are “on the front lines” combating labor-trafficking issues in the state.
Written by Morgan Kuehler.