Bipartisan senators host Human Trafficking Legislative Day

Senators Rebekah Warren (D-- Ann Arbor), Gretchen Whitmer (D--East Lansing), Tonya Schuitmaker (R--Lawton) and Judy Emmons (R--Sheridan) last week hosted the first Human Trafficking Legislative Day at the Capitol to raise awareness of the crime in Michigan. The event included a panel discussion and a viewing of 'Very Young Girls,' a documentary on domestic human trafficking.

"The International Labor Organization estimates that nearly 21 million people are currently victims of forced labor across the world, many of whom are women and children," said Senator Warren. "In fact, it is estimated that human trafficking is the world's fastest growing criminal industry, in part because most people do not realize it continues in the year 2013. As a border state, Michigan is particularly vulnerable to this type of activity, and as such, we have a responsibility to raise awareness and teach our residents how to recognize the signs."

Human Trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery, widespread throughout the United States and occurs right here in Michigan. Michigan's proximity to the Canadian border and waterways increases the likelihood of trafficking in the state. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, with nearly 2 out of 3 victims being female. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that 300,000 children in the U.S. are at risk every year for commercial sexual exploitation.

"It is unfathomable that children and young women are still falling victim to this heinous crime in our state today," said Whitmer. "It is absolutely crucial that we call attention to the increasing instances of human trafficking and protect Michigan's citizens from becoming victims."

In March, Attorney General Bill Schuette announced the creation of the first Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking. The statewide commission includes members of the state legislature, law enforcement, state government, and anti-trafficking activists. The Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking will meet for six months before presenting their formal recommendations to the legislature and the public.

"Human Trafficking is the second-largest and fastest-growing criminal industry in the world--and it's happening right here in Michigan," said Senator Emmons. "This isn't only about ending this slavery overseas; it's about freeing young girls and boys in Michigan hometowns like Grand Rapids, Detroit and Port Huron."

Possible signs of a trafficked person can include:

* Malnutrition, dehydration or poor personal hygiene

* Bruising, broken bones, or other signs of untreated medical problems

* Does not hold his/her own identity or travel documents

* Exhibit submissive behavior or fearful behavior in the presence of others.

* Appear to have little privacy or are rarely alone

* Work excessive hours

"Knowing that innocent people, many of them children, are ripped away from their homes and families and forced into these deplorable conditions is horrifying," said Senator Schuitmaker. "This important event brings lawmakers and advocates together to find solutions to this growing problem. When we know this type of activity is taking place, there is no excuse for inaction."

For more information, or if you think someone is being trafficked call 1-888-3737-888, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC), a national, toll-free hotline.

Published: Mon, May 6, 2013