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Indigenous & Latina Women & Children's Human Rights News from the Americas 


Latin America
Women & Children at Risk
Title:  New York Legislation Targets Human Trafficking

AG Spitzer Seeks to Protect Immigrants and Others from Exploitation and Abuse

Publisher:  2005 Dignity Listserv
Publish Date:  2005-05-17

Attorney General Eliot Spitzer today announced legislation that strengthens state law against "human trafficking," an increasingly prevalent activity of organized crime in which immigrants are lured to this country and forced to work in the sex industry and other illegal enterprises.

"We can't allow the American dream to be turned into a nightmare of exploitation and abuse," Spitzer said. "This legislation will help empower law enforcement agencies across the state to combat this shocking problem."

Spitzer said that the victims of this crime are often immigrants attracted by the promises of a well paying job and a better life. However, upon arrival in the United States, they are virtually imprisoned by the traffickers and are forced to work in sex clubs, sweatshops and other demeaning occupations.

Due to the highly clandestine nature of these crimes, the majority of cases go unreported and culprits remain at large. Just last month, however, federal officials broke up a crime ring in Brooklyn that allegedly imported women from Azerbaijian and forced them into prostitution. Similar rings have been broken up involving young women from Asian, African and Latin American countries.

The federal government estimates that 18,000 people are trafficked illegally into the United States each year, and New York State is a significant hub of such activity. Trafficking also occurs domestically, and the victims are frequently children.

Assemblyman Joseph Lentol (D-Brooklyn) and Senator Dale Volker (R-Depew) have introduced the legislation in their respective houses (Assembly No. A7588 / Senate No. S5246).

Assemblyman Lentol said: "After drugs and arms, the trafficking of women and children are the largest source of profit for organized crime. In New York, we must enact criminal penalties that correspond to the gravity of this crime and send a clear message that we will not tolerate it here in New York. I plan to advance this legislation expeditiously through the Assembly."

Senator Volker said: "The trafficking of human life must not exist in a civil society, and we as New Yorkers and Americans must do all that we can to stop this scourge. This legislation will give our law enforcement agencies the teeth to aggressively pursue, indict and convict these criminals."

Crime victims advocates praised the initiative:

Mary Lou Leary, Executive Director of the National Center for Victims of Crimes said: "We applaud Attorney General Spitzer for taking on the organized criminals who degrade and dehumanize their victims by trafficking in human beings. His legislation aims to end trafficking by empowering New York authorities to arrest and prosecute traffickers. Also, by making victims compensation available and requiring offenders to pay victims restitution for the value of the labor stolen from them, the bill will help them recover from the severe physical, psychological, and financial damage caused by this crime."

Susan Xenarios, Co-Chair of the Downstate Coalition for Crime Victims, and St. Lukes - Roosevelt Hospital Crime Victims Treatment Center, said: "The problem of human trafficking has been escalating in the past few years. Service providers around the state see the enormous economic and human costs associated with this heinous act. The Attorney General's legislation represents the critical step for our state to address the atrocity, the exploitation of human beings."

Tuhina De O'Connor, Executive Director of the New York Asian Women's Center, said: "As an agency providing services to victims of human trafficking, the New York Asian Women's Center is wholly in support of this bill which will help protect victims, bring traffickers to justice, and hopefully raise awareness about this heinous crime."

Anne Erickson, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Greater Upstate Law Project, said: "This is an important first step ensuring that New York's laws provide appropriate protections for victims of trafficking."

While some of the conduct in which traffickers engage is already addressed by Penal Law, there is no specific crime that makes human trafficking illegal. The legislation creates separate new crimes under which these egregious actions can be prosecuted and provides victims with the ability to seek compensation for abuses they have suffered.

The bill creates three new felony offenses: Human Trafficking in the First Degree; Human Trafficking in the Second Degree; and Promotion of Human Trafficking. Respectively, they would be class "C", "D", and "E" felonies.

Human Trafficking in the Second Degree occurs when a person is forced against his or her will into a condition of involuntary servitude. The First Degree offense occurs when additional aggravating factors are involved in committing the crime, such as incidents involving minors, serious physical injury, multiple victims, or previous convictions on related charges. Promotion of Human Trafficking occurs when a person knowingly advances or profits from involuntary servitude.

If passed this year, the bill would take effect January 1, 2006.