Twenty percent of the nation's 17,000 human trafficking victims each year come through Texas, and Attorney General Greg Abbott said today the state should take the lead in collaboration among agencies to fight the scourge of modern-day slavery. "It's a serious threat that demands a unified front," Abbott said after kicking off the inaugural meeting of the Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force at the Capitol.
The task force, created through HB4009 during the 2009 legislative session, is supposed to help diverse local, state and federal agencies that deal with human trafficking victims and perpetrators to work together to address the problem. Abbott said part of the problem with human trafficking is first, identifying what the crime is, and second, identifying victims who are often mistaken for criminals.
Human trafficking, he said, is often confused with human smuggling. Although the two can be related, the crimes are different. Human smuggling involves someone who pays another person because they want help coming into the United States. Human trafficking is a crime that involves a person, often women and children who are not necessarily undocumented immigrants, being forced by another person to work, many times in the sex trade, against their will.
The task force will help not only track down and prosecute criminals who subject their victims to forced labor and sex for money, but will also help provide assistance to victims. Abbott said about 80 percent of trafficking victims are women, and about half are children.
"We must achieve a higher level of collaboration and coordination," Abbott said.