What Human Trafficking Law?

Today I received a press release from the New Mexico Attorney General's office, illuminating the subject of modern slavery. I get press releases from them all the time (actually, sometimes I feel like they're spamming me), but this one was more striking than others. Apparently, New Mexico has no law dealing with human trafficking. I guess they're trying to change that in the State Legislature's special session, which begins next week. Here's a semi-dated, yet fascinating National Geographic article on the topic. You may also read the AG's entire press release after the jump.

Why Does New Mexico Need a Human Trafficking Law?

By Gary K. King, New Mexico Attorney General

The answer is simple. It's the right thing to do. It's what we as people
should do for our fellow human beings. It's what we, as members of state
government, are obligated to do to protect those in our state who cannot
protect themselves.

New Mexico must act sooner than later. We are the only Southwest U.S.
Border state that does not have a law to address the practice of human
trafficking. In fact, 24 states have enacted laws making human
trafficking a state felony offense including the border states of Texas,
California and Arizona.

That means modern day slave traders are attracted to the New
Mexico-Mexico border because they know their flesh industry is not
considered a crime here. The victims are young children, teenagers, men
and women. They are often exploited for commercial sex, including
prostitution, pornography and domestic servitude.

Human trafficking must not be confused with the smuggling of contraband;
we have laws against that, but we have NO LAW that makes human
trafficking a crime in New Mexico. By omission, we are currently giving
tacit approval to the practice of human slavery.

That may sound like an exaggeration but let me assure you, the victims
of human trafficking who are forced to commit unspeakable acts would not
think it so.

According to U.S. government estimates, thousands of men, women, and
children are trafficked to the United States for the purposes of sexual
and labor exploitation. An unknown number of U.S. citizens and legal
residents are trafficked within the country primarily for sexual
servitude and, to a lesser extent, forced labor.

Last legislative session, my office and other concerned citizens
attempted to persuade New Mexico lawmakers to pass legislation that
would have made human trafficking illegal under state law.
Unfortunately, we were unable to persuade the Legislature to do so.

This year, as Attorney General of New Mexico, I formed a task force on
human trafficking and again directed the formulation of legislation that
would finally make this horrific practice a felony crime in New Mexico.
The Legislature need only approve my proposal for it to become law in
the 2008 Session.