Hastings and Spano Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Aid Survivors of Human Trafficking

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Washington, D.C., November 15, 2019 | comments

Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) and Congressman Ross Spano (R-FL) introduced H.R.5080, the HOPE for Victims of Human Trafficking Act, a bipartisan bill which institutes several provisions to more fairly support survivors of human trafficking during and after the judicial process. Joining Hastings and Spano as original cosponsors include: Representatives Mario Díaz-Balart (R-FL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), and Michael Waltz (R-FL). (Please find a copy of the bill attached):

“My home state of Florida has one of the highest reported cases of human trafficking in the country. To put an end to human trafficking in Florida and across our nation, it is vital that we not only support prevention efforts, but also understand and address the unique challenges that survivors face in the legal system as they try to recover from the trauma of this form of modern-day slavery. I look forward to working with Congressman Spano to pass this important legislation to ensure that survivors of human trafficking are not being set-up for failure as they work so bravely to rebuild their lives,” said Hastings.

“Too often, victims of human trafficking are convicted of crimes directly related to being forced into this modern-day slavery. This bill seeks to make it easier for trafficking victims to qualify for the affirmative defense of coercion to prevent unjust prosecution. It is hard enough for them to heal from their trauma and rebuild their lives. This bill would provide hope to those who need it most by helping make sure crimes related to being a victim of trafficking don’t follow them throughout their lives,” said Spano.

This legislation has been endorsed by: Shared Hope International, Rights4Girls, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Selah Freedom, Selah Way Foundation, and the American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

“Having represented hundreds of human trafficking victims since 2014, time after time we have seen human trafficking victims prosecuted in federal court for crimes that resulted directly from the coercion of a trafficker. This bill will afford future victims the critical and life-changing opportunity to show a federal court that the alleged involvement in criminal activity occurred because of such coercion. This is a common sense way of finding just outcomes in the midst of the injustice of human trafficking,” said the Justice Restoration Center.

“Rights4Girls welcomes the introduction of the HOPE for Victims of Trafficking Act, a bill that will help reduce the criminalization of sex trafficking survivors and which reflects an important shift in our collective understanding about sex trafficking—that survivors are not culpable for behaviors stemming from their own victimization,” said Rights4Girls.   

BILL SUMMARY

The HOPE for Victims of Human Trafficking Act would make it easier for survivors of human trafficking to qualify for the affirmative defense of coercion for certain offenses committed while they were being trafficked. The bill does this by creating a rebuttable presumption that survivors are presumed to have committed such offenses under coercion, unless the prosecution proves otherwise. Additionally, the bill includes a process for sealing records of survivors who assert an affirmative defense under this bill, along with a provision stating that failure to assert this defense cannot disqualify them from federal programs that aid trafficking victims.

Congressman Alcee L. Hastings serves as Vice-Chairman of the House Rules Committee, Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and Co-Chairman of the Florida Delegation.

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