Texas lawmakers consider new bill to help sex trafficking survivors

A new bill to help victims of sex trafficking is being considered by the Texas legislature.

HOUSTON - A new bill to help victims of sex trafficking is being considered by the Texas legislature.

The bill would set aside convictions or expunge arrest records of victims.

One of the big challenges for sex trafficking survivors is getting past their criminal records. Things like convictions for prostitution can continue to haunt them.

It's an issue KHOU 11 Investigates first exposed last November, and now a state senator is following through on her pledge to work toward a solution.

One woman – we’ll call Nicole – is a sex trafficking survivor. We spoke to the mother-to-be last year about how her past made it tough to find work.

“Sometimes you wish you was back on the other side, because you don't have money to live. You can't live just breathing,” she said.

In 2015, Texas passed a law that was supposed to help. It banned criminal justice agencies from releasing information to the public if a person was convicted of prostitution while a victim of sex trafficking.
But there were loopholes, and it didn't allow survivors to have convictions wiped from their records.

“It just didn't cover enough,” said Texas Senator Sylvia Garcia.

Garcia co-sponsored the 2015 bill but didn’t realize how narrow the law was until KHOU’s investigation.

Now she’s pushing a bill that could not only seal the records of more survivors, but also have convictions for non-violent crimes cleared from their records if it occurred under the control of a trafficker.

“These are victims. It's slavery. You're being told what you have to do or else, and you're forced into doing it. You're not doing it willfully and intentionally,” Garcia said.

The senator believes by clearing their records, it will clear the way for victims to start over with a clean slate. She hopes that will make it easier to not only get a job, but also housing and career training.

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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