Proposition 35. Human Trafficking. Penalties. Sex Offender Registration. Initiative Statute.
Human trafficking is the most vile abuse perpetrated against men, women, and children today. It strips them of not just their freedom but of every human resource for survival. We know according to human rights groups that more people are enslaved now than at any other time in history. However, this proposition not only does nothing to help victims, it amends the existing law in very dangerous ways that will strip law enforcement of some of its current directives. Prop. 35 amends Penal Code Section 236.1, a comprehensive statute covering all manner of trafficking including domestic work and other forms of coerced and unfree labor. Prop. 35 eradicates any aspect of human trafficking other than sex slavery, and this is a dangerous and irresponsible action.
California Council of Churches, sister organization to IMPACT, has long been involved with Rescue & Restore, the federal program seeking to end all forms of trafficking. We work with the Sacramento Area Task Force on Hate Crimes that incorporates trafficking in its work. We know that Sacramento is one of the primary places for domestic and labor slavery. The FBI estimates are that this form of human slavery is greater than sex trafficking. Eradicating the letter of the law means eradicating enforcement of the law. CA has a good record, not a failing one, in enforcement of all manner of human slavery prosecutions. This proposition will undermine much of that work.
By emphasizing penalties we will simply once again expand the prison population. The likely targets for police will not be traffickers at all – the higher level peddlers of human flesh – but the street level pimps. They are often young men of color and, while deserving arrest and punishment, are the easy targets because they are not the people who traffick. We will not stop any form of trafficking simply by arresting street level pimps alone.
The direction of fines to victim assistance programs is problematic since no standards for programs are established and no terms and conditions for the receipt of fines determined. We know many churches are already engaging in this work of helping victims, but nothing is specified about using this network of faith organizations or interaction between state and federal programs is specified. No coordination among agencies and government offices working on trafficking is detailed. Silence on prevention and restitution for victims is a glaring omission.
Finally, with the emphasis still on sexual slavery, what resources will go to domestic and labor slavery and its victims? With local law enforcement mandates abolished by Proposition 35, there is a hideous loss of focus on these victims every bit as important as those trafficked for sex. This may be a well-intention proposition, but it is dangerously short of the mark. It violates the essential principle of “First, Do No Harm.” We cannot support it.