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March 28, 2007 (512) 463-0300

SENATORS ANNOUNCE LEGISLATION TO ADDRESS HUMAN TRAFFICKING, RACIAL PROFILING

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Senator Leticia Van de Putte announces legislation aimed at combating the illegal trafficking of human beings across the Texas border.

(AUSTIN) -- State and local police forces could get additional tools to help combat human trafficking in Texas under a series of bills announced Wednesday by San Antonio Senator Leticia Van de Putte. The U.S. State Department released a report in 2005 that estimates 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year, and are sold as slaves for labor or the sex industry. Van de Putte said that her bills will target these criminal traffickers but also aid the victims and will bring together all elements of the community in the battle against trafficking. "Together with the coordinated efforts of our law enforcement, our social service providers, and local charities, we can put and end to this wretched underground world of sex slavery and indentured servitude."

Dr. Robert Sandborn of the anti-trafficking activist group Children at Risk estimated that between 15 and 30 thousand people cross the Texas border every year on their way to indentured servitude. Many of these victims are young girls and boys. Van de Putte's legislation is aimed at increased training for law enforcement about national and state laws regarding human trafficking. The bills would make forcing minors to commit prostitution a uniform first-degree felony, and increases the age of victims considered minors in these cases to 18. Grants would also be provided for district attorneys to hire special staff and prosecutors to aid in the prosecution of these complicated cases.

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Senator Judith Zaffirini (center) of Laredo welcomed players and coaches from Poth High School to honor the school's Class 2A girls basketball state championship.

Dallas Senator Royce West held a press conference Wednesday to announce legislation that would tighten the state's racial profiling ban for traffic stops. The Legislature approved a measure in 2001 that made it illegal for a person to be stopped by a police officer simply due to race or ethnicity. West says while the numbers look better, data from his area shows that African-Americans and Latinos are much more likely to have their vehicles searched than Anglos. He added that the state must find out where this disparity comes from. "To determine the reason each year that reports continue to show that a disproportionate number of stops, we need to determine whether that's because of good policing, racial profiling or some other reason," he said.

Senate Bill 1448 would create a centralized database that will collect data from state and local agencies regarding race and traffic stops. It will also require that law enforcement agencies record race data on pedestrians and passengers in stopped vehicles, and would require data collection whether a citation is issued or not.

Also Wednesday, Governor Rick Perry elevated Jay Kimbrough from his position as special master to the Texas Youth Commission to conservator. This is the position requested by the Senate when it passed its resolution asking the Governor to take action to deal with allegations of abuse and misconduct at the TYC. A conservator has a freer hand to act under the law than a special master, including broader authority to dismiss agency employees.

The Senate will reconvene Thursday, March 29, at 10 a.m.

Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's audio and video archive pages.

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