Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, Controller Betty Yee Introduce Legislation to help Human Trafficking Victims Get On Their Feet
AB 900 Would Allow Sex Slaves and Sweatshop Workers to Recover Financially from the Nightmare of Slavery
SACRAMENTO —(Thursday, February 16, 2017) –California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D- San Diego) and State Controller Betty Yee announced today their effort to allow victims of human trafficking to be compensated by the state crime victims fund for the income they lost and for other damages that resulted while they were enslaved.
“Whether they are forced to be sex slaves or sweat shop workers, the nightmare faced by human trafficking victims doesn’t just end when they are rescued,” said Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher, who authored the measure. “The lives of these victims fall apart financially when they are trafficked, and we need to make sure the thousands of Californians who were enslaved have the resources they need to become strong, independent members of our community.”
Assembly Bill 900 will expand the use of the Victims Compensation Program (VCP), which was created by the state in 1965 to help crime victims recover and stabilize financially from the violent crimes against them by allowing them to seek funding to pay for medical treatment, security, relocation and mental health services that are needed in the aftermath of their crimes. Some crime victims may be eligible for compensation for lost wages that were lost as a result of the crime they experienced, but AB 900 will clarify that income recovery will be available for human trafficking victims too.
“AB 900 will provide crucial clarification of human trafficking victims’ rights to the money they earned or lost the opportunity to earn,” said State Controller Betty T. Yee, the state’s chief fiscal officer and a member of the California Victim Compensation Board. “By receiving lost wages, these victims will have some financial support as they rebuild their lives.”
Human trafficking is often called modern-day slavery. Victims are forced into working grueling conditions for little or no wages in farm labor, assembling clothing and toys in sweatshops, forced domestic servitude in private homes and even prostitution.
“Under current regulatory guidance, very few human trafficking victims in California are able to recover lost income through the state's Victim Compensation Program, despite suffering economic loss due to the crimes committed against them. This legislation would ensure our systems are appropriately recognizing the unique form of commercial exploitation trafficking victims face and is essential in helping them rebuild their lives,” said Stephanie Richard, Policy & Legal Services Director for the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Tracking (CAST), the lead organizational sponsor of the bill.
At an estimated $150 billion annually, human trafficking is the largest criminal enterprise globally. An estimated 15,000-17,000 men, women and children are trafficked into the United States each year and California is a major hotspot, with about 26 percent of all human trafficking cases in the country being based in the state.
Forced labor is most prominent in sectors of the California economy that experience a large demand for cheap labor and have little regulation. The largest number of documented cases in the California were prostitution (47.4 percent), domestic service (33.3 percent), agriculture (10.4 percent), and sweatshop or factory work (5.3 percent).
The sex trafficking industry in San Diego County alone produced more than 8,800 victims and $810 million annually, according to analysis authored by researchers at Point Loma Nazarene University and University of San Diego.
AB 900 was introduced on February 16, 2017. It will be eligible for consideration next month.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher represents California’s 80th Assembly District, located in southern San Diego County, including the cities of San Diego, Chula Vista, and National City. She serves as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Appropriations, Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Women in the Workplace, and Vice Chair of the California Latino Legislative Caucus. For more information on Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher visit https://a80.asmdc.org/