With as many as 17,000 victims of human trafficking brought into the United States each year, those captives wind up in every state in the nation, including Oklahoma. That’s according to Sen. Clark Jolley who won approval by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday for a measure directed at human trafficking. A second measure, by Sen. Todd Lamb was approved by both chambers last session and is awaiting final consideration in the 2010 session.
“These victims are brought here with the promise of legitimate work and a better life, and then have their identification stolen and are basically held as slaves until they can pay exorbitant fees to their captors,” said Jolley, R-Edmond. “Their lives and those of their families are threatened if they don’t do what they’re told. Often the victims, including children, are forced into prostitution.”
Jolley said Senate Bill 2258 would increase penalties in Oklahoma related to the crime of human trafficking, such as stealing or destroying another person’s official identification. The bill would also get critical information to victims to help them make their way to safety.
“This is something that’s already being done in other states, including California. Notices are required to be posted in establishments such as massage parlors explaining who to contact in order to help victims safely escape their captors,” Jolley said.
Lamb, R-Edmond, said Senate Bill 956 contains language to better enable victims of human trafficking to bring civil actions against their captors. While the measure won initial approval in the 2009 session, Lamb said he is continuing to refine his legislation this session before bringing it to the floor for a final vote.
“According to the U.S. State Department, human trafficking is now the third-largest world-wide criminal activity, behind drugs and arms dealing,” Lamb said. “Through the years we’ve worked to strengthen laws aimed at international drug cartels that have made their way into Oklahoma. It’s just as important that our state works to ensure our laws are as effective as possible when it comes to criminals who profit from this heinous crime.”