TX: Trail of tears

By San Antonio Current News Team

Global profits associated with sexual slaveryare on the order of $31.7 billion, according to the International Labor Organization. Here in Texas, one out of every five trafficking victims in the U.S. is believed to travel Interstate 10 each year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, and Houston and El Paso are on the list of “most intense trafficking jurisdictions in the country.”

To reduce the number of women, children, and men who wind up as modern-day slaves, State Senator Leticia Van de Putte drafted legislation to establish a statewide task force on sex trafficking that would also require law enforcement to explore alternative models for handling minors engaged in prostitution, raise the age of minor status for prostitution charges from 17 to 18, and make ignorance of a victim’s age inadmissible as a defense. The legislation was well received and approved unanimously in House and Senate committees before being rolled into related legislation intended to expand victim-assistance services in the state. That larger bill is now on its way to Governor Perry.

Meanwhile, the last of five Bexar County residents convicted a year ago in BexarCo’s only human-trafficking lawsuit to date is set to be sentenced on June 19 under a plea agreement. Brent Stephens, the owner of several home-health service organizations in recent years — including Senior Sitters, Total Therapy Services, and Meta-Care — would serve five years in prison for his part in luring three women to the United States from Nuevo Laredo to work as prostitutes for an escort service. Two of the women were minors.

Stephens allegedly backed out of the plan after “inspecting” the women at his condo. His partner, registered sex offender Timothy Gereb, who threatened the women with a gun if they failed to perform, according to court testimony, was sentenced to 10 yearsin prison in March 2008.

While sexual slavery is a critical and horrifying issue, it’s important to remember that for every person enslaved in sex work, there are three people being forced to labor in other capacities, says Maria Trujillo, executive director of Houston Rescue and Restore. Enslaved people can be found working in restaurants, selling magazines door-to-door, working in nail salons, or as domestic help.

Original on The QueQue

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