Trafficking Bill Moves through Committee

A bill on human trafficking passed a second committee as state senators and representatives were back among each other for another grueling day of session.

Legislation sponsored by Sen. Arthenia L. Joyner, D-Tampa, increasing protection for victims of human trafficking, passed unanimously through the second committee of the senate during the 2012 legislative session. Session took off after the co-introduction by Smith on Joyner’s senate bill 80. The bill is specifically aimed at massage parlors holding illegal immigrants and conducting prostitution.

A bill by Joyner, which was introduced by Smith, requiring operators of massage establishments to maintain valid work authorization documents for each employee who is not a United States citizen, may change the amount of money they generate.

“This change makes it clear that the state of Florida will protect any person at risk of becoming a victim of human bondage or being forced to engage in illicit sexual activities,” said Joyner. “The legislation creates vitally important issued identification.”

Supporters of the bill like Sen. Christopher Smith, D-West Palm Beach, say the bill will give more teeth in the law and make it harder for massage parlors to practice illegal activities.

“They’re bringing in women from other countries,” said Smith. “Under false prentices sometimes or housing them for a couple of days and saying you have to pay it off.”

When referring to human trafficking, Smith says human trafficking in Florida is no different from your average pimp in the street.

“It’s the old pimp game just rewound,” said Smith. Smith said owners of these massage parlors are getting women and using them for more than giving massages. “These women are basically being held captive they have nobody they have no family and they get forced into prostitution at these massage parlors.”

According to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office there was nine human-trafficking cases in 2011, none of them resulted in charges filed.

Smith wants to make the owners of massage parlors provide some type of proof of citizenship when authorities ask for it. “When law enforcement go in they can go in and ask for identification and ask for proof that you are in the country legally now,” said Smith.

According to the state’s Senate Criminal Justice Committee the approval was a needed in order to clean up Florida’s streets. Under the new bill the penalty would increase from a maximum of 15 years in prison to 30 years.