Florida Aims Anti-Racketeering Bill at Human Traffickers, Sex Trade

By: Kenric Ward | Posted: January 12, 2012 3:55 AM
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Credit: ice.gov

Florida, a key cog in an expanding global human-trafficking network, is looking to crack down on the $42.5 billion industry, starting with a vote on anti-racketeering legislation Thursday.

Arally in Tallahassee on Wednesday marked a "Day of Awareness" in the fight against domestic human trafficking, whose criminal enterprises range from sexual slavery to organ harvesting.

"What is transpiring behind our backs is nothing less than a systemic corruption of our youth and our society," said Nathan Wilson, head of the anti-trafficking group, Project Meridian. "This problem goes beyond isolated incidents of sexual exploitation.  

"Sex trafficking of minors has proliferated within our borders, and most Americans are oblivious to the gravity of the situation," Wilson said at the Capitol.

On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee unanimously advanced a bill to strengthen and broaden state statutes against human trafficking in Florida.

Chairman Will Snyder, R-Stuart, said that, as a Martin County sheriff's deputy, he has witnessed "immigrants forced into sex slavery in migrant camps."

But he said local and state law-enforcement agencies are hampered by weak laws and low penalties.

"My bill brings the sentencing structure up to federal level and, recognizing the multi-jurisdictional nature of these crimes, it empowers the statewide prosecutor, the attorney general and statewide grand jury," Snyder said.

Snyder's proposed committee bill also authorizes wiretapping and forfeiture, mirroring federal RICO statutes.

"We believe [human trafficking] is an organized racketeering enterprise," Snyder said. "Smugglers don't necessarily use force, but they use coercion, take passports and threaten families back home."

State Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, introduced a similar anti-trafficking measure, Senate Bill 1880, on Monday.

“Sex trafficking has become a major issue that requires our immediate attention. It is imperative that we do everything we can to help the victims who have suffered from this horrible trade," said Flores, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Attorney General Pam Bondi said her office wants "to make Florida a zero-tolerance state for human trafficking."

“Human trafficking exploits and abuses men, women and children. We are looking forward to working with both legislators to ensure the bills pass this session," Bondi said.

In an interview with Sunshine State News, Wilson, whose organization is based in Washington, said the tentacles of human trafficking are far-flung and insidious.

"Modeling agencies are a point of access to young people. The media need to stop talking about 'runaways.' It's manipulation and it's abduction," Wilson said.

Wilson said that when organ harvesting is included in the trafficking figures, the size of the global industry grows to an estimated $200 billion a year.

The U.S. State Department estimates that some 700,000 people, mostly women and children, are trafficked across national borders annually, with Florida serving as a prime port for U.S traffic.

"Florida is commonly cited along with New York and California as being one of the top three destinations for trafficking victims in the United States," according to a report by Florida NOW.

"Victims of sex trafficking typically wind up in large cities, vacation and tourist spots, and near military bases, where the demand for sex trafficking is incredibly high. Florida’s economic climate, largely dependent on agriculture and tourism, renders it an ideal destination for human trafficking victims," NOW said.

In Washington, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has sponsored the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act to update and upgrade current federal law.

"I hope the Senate will take up this anti-trafficking legislation this year in order to improve it and pass it. The first step in combating this crime is awareness, and I urge my fellow Floridians to learn more about human trafficking and what can be done to stop it," Rubio said in a statement issued Wednesday.

Contact Kenric Ward at kward@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 801-5341.

Comments (7)

Kenric Ward
4:42PM JAN 12TH 2012
Thanks, Nathan, for the updated figures, now reflected in the article. House Judiciary advanced the bill today.
Nathan Wilson Project Meidian Foundation
2:33PM JAN 12TH 2012
To set the record straight right $32 billion was the estimate in 2003 Now it has increased to 42.4 Billion up to $ 200 Billion annual... Sex and organ Trafficking!

On Today, the House Judiciary Committee voted on a bill to strengthen and broaden state statutes against human trafficking in Florida.

Floridians should be very proud of your Representation to protect and defend your children of Florida and those who families to come to your state for vacation! Chairman Will Snyder, R-Stuart Representative Gayle Harrell House of Representatives, District 81 and whole House Judiciary Committee. Now its time for State Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami Center who is leading the charge on her end to combat this crime against children! This Bill will not cost the payer in taxes!! It will cost the Traffickers everything!! We are pleased to have been a major part of the writing of this bill work with many rep from the house! Call your rep and senator to co- sponsor the bill.
Robert Lloyd
9:19AM JAN 12TH 2012
>>"immigrants forced into sex slavery in migrant camps."<<

My word... I am so tired of the poor little Hispanic girl saying she has been enslaved right here in America. This is soooo utterly stupid that we shouldn't even worry about this stuff. Girl, look our to the street where you are and there is a cop (he is the guy in the car with lights on the roof). Then you tell him and point to the guy that is trying to physically restrain you from walking to the police car and say "he won't leave me alone."

Gee wiz, but that is all anyone would have to do. Or, why wouldn't you merely put a small handgun in your purse and shoot someone that is trying to restrain you? I would. My wife would. My daughter would.

Instead we have this whole 'stop slavery' culture with the gov't task forces gloriously coming to the rescue!!!! IS THERE NOT ANYONE THAT CAN TAKE CARE OF THEMSELVES ANYMORE (besides me, my wife and my daughter)? WE ARE ALL (except for me, my wife, and my daughter) VICTIMS? HELP, HELP, HELP... FOR WHATEVER, WE NEED HEEEEELP! GOVERNMENT, PLEASE SAVE ME (well not me, my wife, and my daughter)!!!!
2:41PM JAN 12TH 2012
Robert I cannot agree with you more. Give every twelve year old girl and boy a new handgun for their birthday. Nothing big mind you maybe a .380, something they can carry in their purse and pocket. Then when a bad guy comes up to them just give them the old what for. We should clean the streets in no time. This would result in us needing less law enforcement on the streets and an overall savings to the taxpayer. I am not sure why no one has not thought of this before.

However, until that time maybe we can make tough laws for the bad guys and put them in jail. Or even tougher for the bad guys who inprison and drug these children until they feel so dependent and so ashamed that they believe the only thing to do stay alive is to do what they are told or forced to do.
8:37PM JAN 12TH 2012
Good reply. The comment you're replying to was so out in left field that I decided not to bother.
8:15AM JAN 12TH 2012
Thank you Rep. Snyder, Sen. Flores, Ms. Bondi, and Sen. Rubio etal for making human trafficking a priority. Human trafficking is not only unconscionable, it flies in the face of our American values.
8:35PM JAN 12TH 2012
I want to add that I believe human trafficking is made worse and is actually one of the consequences of not enforcing our immigration laws.

IMO, besides passing tougher laws against it, another useful tool would be to also pass an E-verify bill.

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