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Attorney General Lockyer Launches Task Force to Examine Human Trafficking and Forced Labor
(OAKLAND) - Attorney General Bill Lockyer this week convened the first meeting of a statewide task force to address the emerging issue of human trafficking, a crime involving captives -- many of them non-English speaking women and children -- who are forced to work against their will in sweatshops, prostitution rings, farm labor, private homes and other enterprises under deplorable conditions.
“Human trafficking and forced labor is not only unconscionable, it is illegal,” said Lockyer. “It is my hope that this task force can identify ways to strengthen California’s ability to combat this inhumane and hidden crime.”
The California Alliance to Combat Trafficking and Slavery (CA ACTS) Task Force was established as a result of AB 22, by Assembly Member Sally Lieber (D-Mountain View) and SB 180, by Senator Sheila Kuehl (D-Los Angeles). Chaired by the Attorney General, the CA ACTS Task Force will examine the issue and present a report for legislative review. The report, due by July 2007, will identify the scope of human trafficking in California, collect and summarize data, describe local and statewide efforts to address the issue, determine gaps in services, and make recommendations on how to improve California’s law enforcement and prosecution efforts, as well as its response to victims.
“Human trafficking is modern day slavery,” said Assemblywoman Lieber. “California is committed to putting these merchants of human suffering out of business and the work of this task force is critical to that effort.”
In addition to creating the task force, Lieber’s bill criminalized human trafficking under California law and established legal benefits for victims. Kuehl’s bill also created a training program to educate peace officers on responding to human trafficking offenses.
“Human trafficking is rapidly becoming one of the most serious human rights issues of the 21st century and it's time for California to take immediate and strong action,” said Senator Kuehl. “This task force has been formed to identify ways to coordinate efforts to prosecute traffickers, and, most importantly, provide survivors of trafficking with desperately needed services and support so they can recover and get on with their lives.”
A recent report by the Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley cited 57 cases of forced labor in California between 1998 and 2003, with over 500 victims. The report, Freedom Denied,
notes most of the victims in California were from Thailand, Mexico, and Russia and had been forced to work as prostitutes, domestic slaves, farm laborers or sweatshop employees.
The report also noted that crime data on human trafficking is difficult to track because exploited immigrants are reluctant to report abuse. Captors often take away victims’ identity documents and threaten them with reprisal, such as harming family members in their home countries. Victims can also fear law enforcement because of their experiences with corrupt authorities in their home countries.
Members of the CA ACTS Task Force include representatives of statewide criminal justice associations, local law enforcement, human trafficking victims’ advocate groups, state government leaders, researchers and victims.
Additional information about human trafficking and a list of the task force members is available at the Attorney General’s Crime and Violence Prevention Center web site at www.safestate.org/humantrafficking.