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Mayor Berry, Governor Martinez Announce Legislation to Protect New Mexicans from Modern Day Slavery

Human Trafficking Legislation: Offender Registration,Harsher penalties, and closing loophole

January 27, 2013

Albuquerque - Mayor Richard J. Berry, Governor Susana Martinez, and Representatives Monica Youngblood (HD 57) and Tim Lewis (HD 60) today announced legislation to strengthen New Mexico’s human trafficking laws to better protect New Mexicans from a crime that exploits vulnerable young men and women.

The proposed legislation adds human trafficking to the sex offender registry, creates harsher penalties for human trafficking convictions, and eliminates human trafficking definition loopholes that hinder law enforcement efforts.

"We live in a nation where freedom is and should be part of our identity- ‘America’- Land of the Free, but as a country we are still battling an evil crime that steals those freedoms and enslaves countless victims - Human Trafficking," said Mayor Berry. "Combating this crime starts right here at home, with laws that make it hard to be criminal, especially heartless crimes like these."

"It is a common misperception that crimes of this nature occur overseas, but not right here in New Mexico," said Governor Susana Martinez. "Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery and those vulnerable to this type of exploitation—children and young women— deserve all the protection we can give them."
Immigrants, runaways and others are sometimes exploited by persons who trick, force or sell them into prostitution or unpaid physical labor. Such exploitation is known as human trafficking, legally defined as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons by means of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of exploitation.

The Human Trafficking legislation, which will be introduced in the State Legislature this week by Reps. Youngblood and Lewis, was created in conjunction with on-going efforts by the Albuquerque Police Department’s VICE unit and the Mayor’s Taskforce on Human Trafficking.

Youngblood’s and Lewis’s legislation focuses on creating meaningful changes for victims and harsher penalties for those engaged in human trafficking.

"Human trafficking is a hideous crime," say Reps. Monica Youngblood and Tim Lewis. "Protecting enslaved women, children and the vulnerable from any kind of trafficking should be a priority.  We look forward to passing this legislation with the help and support of Mayor Berry and Governor Martinez."

Key points in the legislation include:

Human Trafficker offender "registration requirement"
This will require convicted human traffickers to register on the existing sex offender registry when their crime was for sexual exploitation (as opposed to physical labor).  They will also be required to provide a DNA sample to law enforcement.

Strengthen human trafficking penalties
Currently, if someone is found guilty of human trafficking it is a third degree felony. The proposed legislation increases the crime to a second degree felony if the victim is over the age of 16 (the age of consent), and a first degree felony if the victim is 15 years of age or younger.

Eliminates loophole in state statute on human trafficking
Police departments and prosecutors struggle with convictions of human traffickers because of a loophole in the definition of a human trafficker. Currently, to be convicted of human trafficking an individual has to actually take custody of an individual. The proposed legislation tightens the definition to include intent, thereby eliminating this challenge.

Rep. Lewis also introduced legislation that will provide for the posting of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline. The number would be posted in public places like highway rest areas, transportation facilities, and bars and liquor establishments.