Rochester, NY – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today stood with survivors of human trafficking, law enforcement officials and advocacy groups to announce new bipartisan legislation, the Trafficking Survivors Relief Act of 2016, which would clear criminal records of victims of human trafficking. This bill would apply to non-violent crimes committed by individuals as a direct result of human trafficking.
“We need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to take care of human trafficking survivors who manage to escape from captivity,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “In many cases, when trafficked people – including children – are forced into slavery, they are tagged with criminal charges that stay with them for the rest of their lives, even though they have absolutely no freedom to say no to their captors, who force them to commit crimes. I urge all of my colleagues to support my legislation to clear non-violent criminal convictions of trafficking victims who were forced to break the law while in captivity. We all have a responsibility to take care of the most vulnerable Americans.”
“As the Monroe County District Attorney, I offer my support to this very important legislation. Senator Gillibrand’s proposed legislation will demonstrate that law enforcement appreciates the predicament victims of human trafficking are faced with and that it often forces them to commit crimes in an effort to survive their captivity. This legislation would assist those victims in their healing process and afford them an opportunity to move on with their lives to become productive members of the community. By expunging any non-violent criminal offenses committed while in captivity, victims will move forward in their lives with an understanding that there is a compassionate and just side to law enforcement,” said Sandra Doorley, Monroe County District Attorney.
“Police Officers know that many victims of human trafficking are forced to commit non-violent crimes as a matter of their own safety and survival. This proposed legislation is a compassionate and common sense approach to give them an opportunity to overcome their victimization, and will benefit the community as well,” said Rochester Police Chief Michael Ciminelli.
“The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is pleased to support U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) and her Trafficking Survivors Relief Act. At NCMEC, we’re well aware of the devastating, lifelong impact sex trafficking has on a child. By decriminalizing child sex trafficking and, instead, focusing on protecting and providing services, this bill goes a long way in supporting the victims of trafficking,” John F. Clark, president and CEO of NCMEC.
“The Center for Youth and our community stakeholders have responded to the negative impact of commercial sexual exploitation of our youngest victims under New York State’s Safe Harbour legislation. We applaud Senator Gillibrand and her colleagues in the Senate for expanding the protections of our most vulnerable victims at the federal level. Trafficking, both sex and labor, is devastating and rob our victims of their innocence. Working together we will remind them that it is never too late to have a happy childhood, despite difficult past experiences,” said Dr. Elaine Spaull, Executive Director, The Center for Youth, Rochester City Councilwoman.
Human trafficking is a modern day form of slavery affecting millions in the United States and abroad. This crime involves either the use of force, fraud, or coercion to exploit a person for labor or commercial sex, or the exploitation of a minor for commercial sex. As a result of being trafficked, victims are commonly charged with crimes such as conspiracy, money laundering, drug trafficking, and related offenses that then follow them throughout the duration of their lives. These charges make it difficult for human trafficking victims to find jobs and housing, leaving them vulnerable to being exploited and trafficked again.
Senator Gillibrand’s legislation would require victims to provide supporting documentation in order to get their non-violent criminal records vacated. These documents can include:
- Certified criminal or immigration court proceedings or law enforcement records demonstrating that the individual was a victim of trafficking at the time they were charged with the trafficking-related offense(s).
- Testimony or sworn statement from a trained professional staff member of a victim services organization, an attorney, member of the clergy, a health care professional, a therapist, or other professional from whom the person has sought assistance in addressing the trauma associated with being a victim of trafficking, or
- An affidavit or sworn testimony of the movant indicating that they were a victim of human trafficking at the time of their arrest and that they engaged in or were otherwise accused of engaging in criminal activities as a direct result of being a victim of human trafficking.
Senator Gillibrand first introduced the bill on September 28th along with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and U.S. Representatives Ann Wagner (R-MO), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), and David Jolly (R-FL)