LANSING — Sen. Judy Emmons was joined at the state Capitol on Thursday by legislators, concerned citizens and advocates fighting against human trafficking to announce bipartisan legislative solutions to crack down on offenders and support victims and survivors.
“Human trafficking is a multi-billion-dollar global criminal enterprise that devastates the lives of thousands of women and children every year — and it’s happening right here in our state,” said Emmons, R-Sheridan. “With up to 150 girls being sold into sex trafficking monthly in Michigan, it is a problem that requires a comprehensive solution. Today, we stand united as parents, lawmakers and Michiganders to take a leading role in ending this modern-day slavery.”
Reforms in the 19-bill package include increasing penalties, training and victim support. Emmons’ legislation, named the Theresa Flores Act, would eliminate the statute of limitations for any human trafficking or commercial sexual exploitation of children offenses. It is named for Theresa Flores, a native of Birmingham and the author of The Slave Across the Street, her personal story about how she overcame human trafficking.
“Human trafficking is the second-leading crime in Michigan, and I know this because I was trafficked here over 30 years ago,” said Flores, who spoke at the announcement. “Thank you to strong leaders like Senator Emmons, who say ‘we refuse to let this happen in our state.’”
Emmons first called attention to human trafficking by introducing Senate Bill 205 in February and crisscrossing the state raising public awareness, including hosting a Human Trafficking 101 Forum in March and the Human Trafficking Legislative Day at the Capitol in May and leading a book tour and discussion with Flores during the summer.
“As the point person in the Senate on human trafficking I know that while we are announcing initiatives for new laws, training and victim support, it all starts with awareness,” said Emmons, chair of the Public Awareness Subcommittee for the Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking. “Human Trafficking is the world’s second-largest and fastest-growing criminal industry and the only chance we have to ending it in Michigan is if everyone — from police officers to our neighbors — understands the problem and what they can do to stop it.”
During the announcement, Emmons and advocates from across the state wore blue ribbons to symbolize the importance of bringing human trafficking to the front burner and to give hope both to those currently being held as slaves and to surviving human trafficking victims.
“As a mother and grandmother, it is particularly alarming to me that two of every three victims are female and 80 percent of victims are exploited sexually — with 40 percent of cases involving the sexual exploitation of a child,” said Emmons, chair of the Senate Families, Seniors and Human Services Committee. “I have made it my personal mission to protect our children from the devastating impact of human trafficking.
“This is just the start, and I am committed to leaving no stone unturned as we take action to put an end to labor and sexual exploitation and support those forever impacted by it.”
Residents who suspect a case of trafficking may report it by calling the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline toll-free, 24-hours-a-day at 1-888-3737-888.
“The most direct way for people to help combat Human Trafficking is by calling the hotline if something doesn’t seem right,” Emmons said.
Editor’s Note: A print-quality photograph of the event is available by visiting Emmons’ website at: www.SenatorJudyEmmons.com. Click on “Photowire.”