With National Human Trafficking Awareness Day falling in January, Republican governors across the country are shining a spotlight on these terrible crimes and their victims, and raising awareness for prevention efforts.
A modern form of slavery, human trafficking is a crisis that stretches across the globe, impacting individuals of all ages, races, and genders. An estimated 50,000 people are trafficked into the United States annually, with over half of all human trafficking cases in the country involving children.
Over the past year, Republican governors enacted a series of initiatives to combat human trafficking and provide support and assistance for survivors. From strengthening penalties for traffickers to increasing training for professionals likely to detect signs of human trafficking, GOP governors are committed to putting an end this this stain which plagues countless victims and communities.
- Under Governor Kay Ivey’s leadership, Alabama became the ninth state in the nation to mandate human trafficking training for new CDL drivers. In accordance with the law, Truckers Against Trafficking will work with junior colleges and trade schools to facilitate the training.
- Additionally, the governor enacted legislation creating the Alabama Healthcare Human Trafficking Training Program Commission to develop a training module for all healthcare related employees to readily identify and provide trauma-centered care for human trafficking victims.
- To combat the epidemic of murdered and missing Native American women in Arizona, Governor Doug Ducey established a 21-member Study Committee on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, consisting of members of law enforcement, Arizona’s Native American tribes, and victim advocates.
- Legislation enacted by Governor Asa Hutchinson requires the Arkansas Departments of Education and Human Services to collaborate on providing awareness and training materials to local school districts on human trafficking, including strategies to prevent child trafficking.
- Comprehensive legislation signed by Governor Ron DeSantis in 2019 takes aim at combating human trafficking, as well as offering support for survivors. Under the new law, support organizations for victims will be established by the Florida Department of Legal Affairs, and a greater emphasis will be placed on providing human trafficking training for members of law enforcement, hotel workers, and licensed medical professionals.
- Under Governor DeSantis, Florida will become the first state in the nation to require instruction in human trafficking prevention for students in grades K-12.
- An executive order issued by Governor Brian Kemp established the Georgians for Refuge, Action, Compassion and Education (GRACE) Commission to combat human trafficking in the state. GRACE is comprised of public officials, law enforcement, for-profit and non-profit organizations, faith-based institutions, and subject matter experts to tackle human trafficking, seek justice for victims, and hold perpetrators accountable.
- In addition to signing a variety of bills to increase penalties associated with human trafficking, Governor Kemp also created and funded a new Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit within Georgia’s Department of Law.
- Governor Kemp announced that a focus of his 2020 agenda would be to crack down on human trafficking; the governor launched a human trafficking awareness website in which human tracking detection training will be offered to 80,000 state employees and members of the public.
- In Idaho, human trafficking is now a standalone crime, rather than an enhancement to another criminal offense, thanks to legislation signed by Governor Brad Little.
- Governor Little also signed legislation to provide protections for victims of human trafficking – minor victims are now protected from criminal prosecution for nonviolent offenses in cases where the offense was a direct result of a being a victim of human trafficking.
- To protect children from human trafficking, Governor Eric Holcomb enacted Maggie’s Law, allowing parents to file an order of protection against another adult who has exhibited “grooming” behaviors.
- Governor Kim Reynolds partnered with Iowa U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, and the Asian American Hotel Owners Association to raise awareness for and provide human trafficking prevention training sessions to hospitality workers.
- Governor Larry Hogan enacted legislation which included the Felony Human Trafficking Act of 2019, classifying human trafficking as a violent crime.
- Governor Charlie Baker secured $1.5 million in grant funding to strengthen support for survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, which was used to pilot a dedicated High Risk Victims Unit and to better improve coordination of human trafficking intervention efforts between law enforcement and state agencies.
- Governor Mike Parson took action to protect victims of human trafficking by enacting legislation to improve Missouri’s Amber Alert system, increasing penalties for human traffickers, and prohibiting marriage licenses to be permitted to individuals 16 years of age.
- Under legislation signed into law by Governor Phil Bryant, Mississippi is cracking down on human trafficking by requiring training for law enforcement and foster parents, moving the Office of Human Trafficking Coordinator to the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, and giving greater investigation and prosecution powers to Mississippi Child Protection Services, while also increasing penalties for human traffickers.
- Under Governor Bryant’s leadership, Mississippi has improved from a “D” to an “A” ranking for its anti-human trafficking policies in the past six years.
- This month, Governor Pete Ricketts proclaimed January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month, while highlighting the state’s multi-agency response to tackle human trafficking.
- Under Governor Ricketts, Nebraska was recently awarded an “A” grade by Shared Hope International for combating human trafficking.
- Governor Chris Sununu signed legislation protecting juvenile victims of sex trafficking from facing criminal charges for nonviolent offenses directly arising from their being trafficked.
- The North Dakota Human Trafficking Commission is required to establish an educational training program for hotel operators to better identify, report, and respond to suspected human trafficking following legislation signed by Governor Doug Burgum.
- Governor Mike DeWine signed legislation which puts into place tougher penalties for repeat human trafficking offenders, and those who prey on minors.
- Governor Henry McMaster became the first governor to sign the “Children’s Internet Safety Pledge,” committing to examine the harmful public health impact of Internet pornography on youth and its interconnection with human trafficking.
- In 2019, Governor Kristi Noem signed legislation to further define coercion and strengthen prosecution against sex traffickers.
- Governor Noem also supported a law that established guidelines and procedures for reporting missing and murdered indigenous women and children.
- Governor Bill Lee signed legislation establishing a fund for victims of human trafficking in the state treasury to provide comprehensive treatment and support services to survivors of these crimes. Treatment and services provided include medical care, mental health and substance abuse care, safe housing, job training, transportation, and other critical needs.
- Governor Greg Abbott signed legislation aimed to boost protection for human trafficking victims, as well legislation creating a registry to help prevent sexual exploitation and potential trafficking of school children by barring certain individuals from employment in a Texas public school.
- Legislation enacted by Governor Gary Herbert protects Utah’s most vulnerable citizens by increasing the penalty of trafficking vulnerable adults, making it a first-degree felony to traffic individuals over 65 and adults with the mental capacity of a child.
- In his 2020 State of the State address, Governor Phil Scott vowed to pursue tougher penalties for human traffickers.
- An executive order issued by Governor Mark Gordon established a task force to develop solution-based policies to address the missing and murdered indigenous women crisis in Wyoming.