Strengthens Penalties and Provides Assistance to Victims
Governor Eliot Spitzer and legislative leaders today announced the enactment of legislation that will strengthen penalties against human trafficking and provide assistance to victims.
The legislation, hailed by leading advocacy groups and others, includes the following provisions:
* Creates a class B felony for those who engage in sex trafficking;
* Creates a class D felony for those who engage in labor trafficking;
* Removes ambiguity in existing law to assure that District Attorneys can bring felony charges against those who run "Prostitution Tourism" businesses;
* Provides victims with important services such as emergency temporary housing, access to healthcare, drug addiction treatment, translation services, and job training. It also requires law enforcement to coordinate with the federal government to assist victims in obtaining special visas that allow them to remain in the United States and eventually become eligible for refugee assistance; and
* Creates an interagency task force to recommend best practices for training and outreach to the law enforcement community and to service providers, as well as to gather data on the number of victims and effectiveness of the new law.
"Human trafficking is modern day slavery and among the most repugnant crimes," said Governor Spitzer. "Today we have given law enforcement the ability to adequately prosecute perpetrators, and have provided meaningful assistance for the unfortunate victims of these egregious crimes. Today's signing also demonstrates what we can accomplish in Albany when we work together for the public good."
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said: "Today's bill signing marks a significant step in slamming shut the portal to human trafficking in New York. I commend the leadership and diligence of Assembly members Jeff Dinowitz, Joe Lentol and Amy Paulin in crafting this legislation. Their work, coupled with the tireless efforts and steadfast guidance and support of advocates like the New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition and Sanctuary for Families, was central to ensuring New York enacted strong, comprehensive legislation. It is my sincere hope that as we conclude this session, we can extend these protections to exploited children by enacting Assemblyman Bill Scarborough's Safe Harbor bill."
Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno said: "Human trafficking is a despicable practice that has scarred the lives of countless innocent individuals. The legislation being signed into law today sends a clear message to individuals engaged in this practice of modern day slavery that they will be punished to the fullest extent of the law. I applaud Senator Frank Padavan's tireless commitment and dedication to this issue and want to commend Governor Spitzer and legislative leaders for working together to achieve a meaningful result."
Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco said: "Unfortunately this law is needed to combat this sick practice that exists in the shadows and dark corners of certain places in New York. Those who participate need to be severely punished and those victimized need to be protected and rehabilitated. This law helps."
Senate Minority Leader Malcom Smith said: "Through this anti-trafficking law, we have empowered law enforcement authorities to root out large and small-scale operations that commit this modern and heinous form of slavery. By reaching a consensus about issues of grave concern to New Yorkers, we now have an important law that protects victims from the horrific crime of forced servitude."
Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz said: "It's shocking that human trafficking exists in 21st century America. New York is finally taking strong action against this heinous crime by imposing tough penalties on sex and labor traffickers and sex tour operations and by providing a wide array of services to trafficking victims. This law will serve as a model for other states and will truly change for the better the lives of countless trafficking victims."
Senator Frank Padavan said: "Enacting the strongest laws possible to combat the scourge of human trafficking has long been one of my top legislative priorities. Through persistence and support from my Senate colleagues and victims advocacy groups New York State will now be the standard in the fight to end this form of modern day slavery while providing victims the vital services they need to overcome the deep scars associated with this disgusting crime."
Assemblywoman Amy Paulin said: "Enticing someone into a life of sexual servitude or labor servitude is one of the most horrendous acts that can be perpetrated on one human being by another. Driven by sheer greed and a complete disregard for human decency, these villains have been enslaving mostly women and children into a life of absolute horror. As nations around the world grapple with how to stop this depraved practice, New York can take important steps towards addressing this scourge."
Rockland County District Attorney Michael Bongiorno, head of the New York State District Attorneys Association, said: "District Attorneys in New York look forward to working with law enforcement to enforce this important anti-human trafficking law. I commend the Governor and the State Legislature for providing law enforcement with the tools required to combat modern-day slavery."
Executive Director of Equality Now, Taina Bien-Aime, said: "Equality Now and the New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition are thrilled that New York State has passed the strongest anti-trafficking law in the country. We commend the legislature for passing this law unanimously and we especially want to thank Governor Spitzer for the crucial role he played in this process. Without his leadership and vision, this would not have been possible."
CEO of Safe Horizon, Gordon J. Campbell, said: "As the largest service provider for victims of human trafficking in New York State, Safe Horizon applauds the Governor, Senate and Assembly for its leadership in making human trafficking a felony, including penalties for those who traffic victims into both labor and sexual servitude. Additionally, the legislation provides trafficking victims with much-needed services and emergency benefits. Those forced into servitude of any kind are stripped of their freedom, their belongings and their dignity. Services and emergency benefits provide the crucial step that enables victims to re-enter society as self-reliant human beings." Lt. Governor David Paterson said: "This legislation gives prosecutors the tools they need to bring justice to victims of this form of modern-day slavery. It is a model of what executive and legislative leaders can do when we work together to reach a consensus. By giving clear directives to law enforcement authorities, increasing penalties for offenders, and making social services available to victims New York State will become a national leader in the fight against human trafficking."