Cheers SB 291 and may you prosper

As I come to the end of my blog journey with this bill I am happy that I chose to follow this bill. This bill will, I believe, change the lives of victims of human trafficking. I also believe that it will change the lives of peace officers, I think they will learn about system theory in the process without even realizing it. The bill is set out to create a task force by September 1, 2019 I am excited for that day to come to see if the tasks force gets started. I know that the human trafficking population is one that tends to be overlooked, so this bill has inspired me to look further into the task force assembling in September to see if they are in need of social workers.

It is my hope to serve on this task force if there is any space for a social worker. Following this bill, has opened my eyes to the importance if lobbying and voting for the correct representatives. It also helped me understand the process of how a bill becomes a law and why often times bills die in committee. This assignment has created a desire in my to follow the bills that are important to me and to speak to my representatives about them. I feel so moved by this that I have considered moving into the Texas Capitol every two years, in an effort to knock on my representatives door to make them aware of the bills that could otherwise go unnoticed.

One of the greatest lessons I learned throughout following this bill has been that exposure and lobbying works! I know it is a common sense thing to realize but I the experience really helped me tie the two together. Now as my writing on this bill comes to end my journey to lobbying has just begun. I have already set notifications for other bills on my radar and will be making my way back down to Austin in April to lobby for these other bills. As I anxiously await September and continue to hope that this bill is passed I will continue working with the human trafficking population in order to give them a voice!

Update on Austin Advocacy Day

I had the opportunity to be a citizen lobbyist about 2 weeks ago. I went to the capitol to speak to my representative about S.B. 291. I had a pretty productive visit with my senators political analyst. My senate representative was unfortunately out of the office but I was able to speak to Jack Andrews. Mr. Andrews listen to what S.B 291 was proposing and took notes on the issue. I felt heard and validate by Mr.Andrews, he assured me that he would give Senator Johnson my one pager and fill him in on the importance of the bill. I was able to drop of a one pager that gave the condense version of a policy brief I wrote about S.B 291.

I was glad to have gone to Austin to advocate for this bill because the social work code of ethics calls us to challenge social justice and to take social and political action. This is what I did on March 7th! It was amazing to be surrounded by other social workers that were advocating for their issues and to stand behind my colleagues as they brought up difficult topics to their representatives. If in the future I am presented with the chance to do this again I would most definitely do it. And if by any chance any one is reading this blog I will be attaching my one pager in hopes that you too will read it and reach out to your representative and ask them to vote yes.

Protect Victims of Human Trafficking

There are 40.3 million individuals worldwide that are victims of human trafficking

          There are 313,00 individuals in the state of Texas that are suffering from human trafficking. 79,000 are minors who are being trafficked for sex and 234,000 are being trafficked for labor.

What is Texas doing about this?

S.B. 291 will establish a unit in the state if Texas dedicated to investigating and prosecuting human trafficking. It will educate law enforcement on how to recognize a human trafficking victim.

Why is this important?

 Educating peace officers on the signs of human trafficking will help reintegrate victims into society rather than prosecuting them. The financial contribution of labor trafficked individuals could contribute to the Texan economy, which was noted as 600 million in the human trafficking benchmark that the University of Texas at Austin conducted.

What still needs to be added to S.B. 291?

  1. Revising the language used to differentiate victim from perpetrator.
  2. Providing evidence-based therapy to victims of human trafficking.
  3. Rehabilitating and reintegrating victims of human trafficking into society.
  4. Improving data collection to better serve victims of human trafficking.

What will hopefully happen once this bill is signed into law

Advocating in Austin

The Texas legislature is in session. It will continue be in session for 140 days. *As of November 12, 2019, 2 months before the session had been called to order 400 bills had already been introdiced to the Legislature. This is why advocating and bringing notice to the bill you have been following is important. 

Therefore, I will be going to the day at the capital to meet with my senator to advocate for S.B. 291. At this meetingI will be sure to make my senator aware of the bill because he is not on the criminal justice committee. My Texas senator is Nathan Johnson and I have been trying to set up a meeting with him for the past couple of weeks. I understand that the day at the capitol is an extremely busy day, however in order to make my voice heard I will continue to email and call to set up a meeting. 

The meeting is so important because as I have mentioned before bills tend to die in committee. **This bill is an important legislature due to the fact that there are still more 40 million people that are being human trafficked worldwide. There is a prevalence and need for this unit to be created. It would be ideal to be able to educated the Texas senate about this bill, I will settle for educating my representative in the hopes that he will vote yes on this bill.

**personal communication with Kevin Bales at the human trafficking symposium held at TCU


Criminal Justice Committee

S.B 291 has progressed into the committee phase. This is an important phase of the bill because most bill tend to die in committee. *In order for the bill to be signed into law it needs 2/3 of the majority vote, if that happens then the bill is enrolled which means the Speaker of the House and the Lt. Governor sign the bill, from there the Governor decides whether to pass it as law or to veto the bill.

I am fairly confident this bill will progress to be a law. **The office of the Governor declared January 2019 human trafficking prevention month. Governor’s Abbotts office recognizes that there is a prevalence of human trafficking in the in the state of Texas, thus it has led me to be confident about this bold statement. I attended a human trafficking symposium about a week ago in Fort Worth, in which Andrea Sparks, Director of Governor Abbott’s Child Sex Trafficking Team, was present at. Andrea spoke about a unit that they are hoping to launch, this made my ears perk up. Andrea did not elaborate much on the topic and was fairly conservative about questions asked about it. However, I am speculating that she was speaking on S.B 291.

I am glad I chose this bill to follow. I am currently a social work graduate student, and this has been the population I have been following since undergrad. I am glad that their voices are being listened to and that there are many more voices advocating for them. I know my voice will be added on March 7,2019. I plan to go to the capital and speak to my representative about how important this bill is. I hoe whoever stumbles upon this blog will also join in the fight against human trafficking.

*https://shsulibraryguides.org/c.php?g=351551&p=2370494

**https://gov.texas.gov/news/post/human-trafficking-prevention-month

Senate Bill 291 86(R)

This bill was introduced to the senate on January 3, 2019 by senator Lucio. This bill calls for a human trafficking unit that will be established under the department of public safety of the state of Texas. This bill hopes to set up a task force that will investigate and fight against human trafficking. This bill defines human trafficking as in Section 20A.02* of the penal code. This bill will work alongside local and federal law to prosecute any person found to have engaged in human trafficking. This bill also proposes training for peace officers who will deal with the trafficked individuals in order to minimize intrusions on the victim. If this bill is successful it will have formed the task force or unit by September 2020.

**Congress signed into law the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act in 2000. This act was the beginning of a coordinated effort to fight human trafficking. Since then the US government has partnered with state departments, department of justice and, the department of health and human service to try and put an end to human trafficking. Unfortunately, there is an increase of need for labor workers making impoverished migrant men and women more susceptible to labor and sexual exploitation.

It is to be noted that Texas’ steps towards combating human trafficking is important because of our neighbor to the south. ***The United States has 328 ports of entry, Texas being the state with most ports at 29. With ports numbering so high in the state it is a step in the right direction to train border agents and peace keepers to be able to spot a victim of human trafficking and how to keep said victims safe.

Social work has a long way to come in the fight against human trafficking. Human trafficking can encompass every age and gender imaginable and it is a hard to accurately define the term.  ****Christina Reardon pointed out in an issue of social work today, “Many social workers aren’t prepared to encounter victims because these social workers either don’t know the warning signs of trafficking or aren’t actively looking for them among the youths they serve.” As social workers it is important to train and look for the signs as well. I will continue to watch this bill and hopefully the bill will allow room for social workers to be on the task force.

*https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/PE/htm/PE.20A.htm#20A.02

**https://www.cbp.gov/border-security/human-trafficking

***https://gov.texas.gov/uploads/files/business/portsintexas.pdf

****https://www.socialworktoday.com/archive/032216p10.shtml