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Assembly passes human-trafficking bill

By Staff

 

stateandsealThe New York State Assembly unanimously passed the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act, which will now treat sex trafficking as a violent felony, according to a press release.

The bill previously had been part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 10-point Women’s Equality Act, which Senate Republicans had refused to pass due to a measure which would have increased abortion rights in the bill.

Subsequently, Assembly Democrats had expressed opposition to passing measures of the bill independently, instead of as a comprehensive package.

The Senate previously passed the legislation in January, including harsher penalties for offenders, and Monday, the Assembly followed.

Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, D-Irondequoit, released the following statement regarding the six-bill legislation:

“Human trafficking is a heinous enterprise that is growing at an alarming rate throughout our nation. Two months ago, in my hometown of Rochester, federal prosecutors broke up a human trafficking ring that exposed the devastating impact this appalling industry can have on a community and highlighted the need for greater protections for families and children.

Today, I was pleased to have the opportunity to join with Speaker Heastie, and my colleagues in the Assembly, in passing a package of bi-partisan legislation that seeks to aggressively combat the scourge of human trafficking, enhance protections for victims, and ensure that perpetrators of this crime are prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I thank my colleagues for their work and commitment to passing these six bills.”

In addition, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, stated, “In 2007, the Assembly Majority passed New York’s first anti-human trafficking law to create new crimes and increase penalties for labor and sex trafficking. Unfortunately, human trafficking continues to plague our communities, and more needs to be done. The legislation passed by the Assembly today will send a clear message that we will do all we can to protect victims, provide them with the vital support and services needed to end the cycle of victimization and hold perpetrators accountable.”

Now, Gov. Cuomo must approve the legislation.

“Human trafficking is a crime that robs victims of their most fundamental rights, and it affects people in communities across our state – including more than 1,000 children every year,” Cuomo stated. “That is an injustice that simply cannot be allowed to continue in New York, and I look forward to signing this legislation quickly to make our state safer for this vulnerable population.”

Some of the tighter provisions under the new law will include:

  • Increased penalties for sex and labor human trafficking;
  • Escalating penalties for promoting prostitution, and patronizing minors for prostitution;
  • Extending the inter-agency task force on human trafficking;
  • Requiring anti-human trafficking training for law enforcement;
  • Creating a civil right of action to enable victims of human trafficking to sue their perpetrators for damages; and
  • Establishing an affirmative defense in prostitution prosecutions if the defendant was a sex-trafficking victim.

All 141 Assembly members voted for the legislation.