Landmark human trafficking legislation signed into law

LANSING—Sen. Judy Emmons joined Gov. Rick Snyder and human trafficking survivors from across the state in Troy on Thursday as the governor signed into law comprehensive legislation to crack down on human trafficking and support its survivors.

“Over the past three years, I’ve met with survivors of human trafficking and anti-trafficking activists across Michigan to develop solutions to help end this horrible crime, which devastates the lives of thousands of women and children every year,” said Emmons, R-Sheridan, who led the effort in the Senate against human trafficking. “I am filled with gratitude that these landmark reforms to end this modern-day slavery and support its survivors are now law.”

Among the approved reforms signed on Thursday is Senate Bill 584, sponsored by Emmons and named the Theresa Flores Act. It eliminates the statute of limitations for any offense related to human trafficking or commercial sexual exploitation of children and increases the statute of limitations to 25 years for adults.

The new law is named for Theresa Flores, a Michigan native and the author of The Slave Across the Street, her personal story about how she overcame human trafficking. As a survivor and renowned expert on human trafficking, Flores has worked closely with Emmons to raise awareness on the issue and develop the solutions.

“The battle against human trafficking first started with raising public awareness, and we stood united as parents and survivors to do that,” Emmons said. “These new laws are the next step in a fight against a criminal industry that is second only to illegal drugs.

“Michigan is leading the nation now with some of the country’s strongest human trafficking laws. It’s a loud and clear statement that we are serious about protecting women and children, prosecuting traffickers and rescuing and assisting survivors.”

The 21 new laws would measures to increase penalties for soliciting a minor prostitute, add “Johns” who solicit minor prostitutes to the sex offender registry, create a “safe harbor” for minor victims of trafficking and establish a permanent Human Trafficking Commission.

Senate Bills 205-206, 584-585, 587, 590, 592-593, 597 and 602 and House Bills 4021, 5012, 5025-5026, 5158, 5231, 5233-5234, 5236-5237 and 5239 are now Public Acts 324-344 of 2014.