Heise applauds final approval of human trafficking legislation

 Michigan legislators have taken another step forward in the fight against human trafficking, state Rep. Kurt Heise announced.

The Legislature formally approved the measures to combat human trafficking today.  Heise, chair of the House Criminal Justice Committee and co-chair of the Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking, says the legislation is a comprehensive approach that will train law enforcement, educate the public and most importantly, protect innocent victims. 

 “Human trafficking is a horrific crime that exploits women and children for sexual abuse and financial gain, and those criminals involved in this barbaric form of modern day slavery must be brought to justice,” said Heise, R-Plymouth Township.  “As a lawyer and a father of two teenage daughters, the thought of any child being abused makes me sick.  There is no greater crime than exploiting our most vulnerable citizens, and it must be stopped.”
Over 20 bills, from lawmakers in both the House and Senate, have been approved in response to a report by the Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking.  Heise worked with top law enforcement agencies at the state and federal level, nonprofit organizations, victim services, and the academic community to help strengthen Michigan’s fight against this brutal crime. 

“It was important for the commission to look at ways to raise public awareness, train law enforcement, collect adequate data and protect victims,” Heise said.  “What we got at the end of the day was a great bipartisan package of bills that will go a long way in helping to eradicate this brutal industry.” 

House Bill 5026, sponsored by Heise, helps create a safe harbor law for minors who are victims of human trafficking.  HB 5158, sponsored by Heise, creates a permanent Human Trafficking Commission with­in the Attorney General’s Office which will work to fully implement the comprehensive commission report.  HB 5233, sponsored by Rep. Klint Kesto R-Commerce Township, provides for the forfeiture of property from those criminally convicted of human trafficking crimes.

 “Michigan has been working hard on updating and strengthening state law dealing with human trafficking, however, there is a lot more that needs to be done,” Heise said.  “We need to create tougher penalties for those who buy our children for sex and forced labor.  Unfortunately many cases are not brought to the Michigan justice system and prosecuted because they are hard to detect.  A big step in holding these perpetrators accountable will be to educate law enforcement and the public on how to identify victims and their traffickers.  Lastly, we need to make sure we create a safe and nurturing environment for the children who have become victims in trafficking.
 Creating a safe environment where we can work with them to become productive members of society along with helping to flush out their oppressors will go a long way in helping eradicate this gruesome industry.”
All the bills in the package have received final legislative approval and are now awaiting the governor’s signature.