Texas becomes first US state to pass human trafficking law

Texas became the first state to pass a major legislation to help combat human trafficking.

Gov. Rick Perry signed House Bill 4009 last Thursday which establishes a human trafficking taskforce in the Attorney General’s Office and will develop policies and procedures for the prevention and prosecution of crimes related to the activity.

“Texas has always been, and continues to be, a leader in the modern day abolitionist movement, and this legislation is the first of its kind in the United States,” said Rep. Randy Weber, who authored the legislation, according to the Office of the Governor.

“Most people think human trafficking happens elsewhere in places like Thailand and Cambodia,” he said, “but the reality is that it is happening in our own backyard. In fact, the vast majority of the victims identified within Texas are actually our own citizens."

According to the U.S. State Department, nearly one in five victims of human trafficking in the United States travels through Texas, with Houston and El Paso listed among the most intense trafficking cities in the country. Between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States each year, 80 percent of them women and 50 percent of them children.

For a growing number of Christians, the problem of human trafficking is seen as a modern form of slavery. Many Christian groups in recent years have joined the fight against human trafficking, maintaining that they must save God’s children from enslavement.

Christian anti-human trafficking activists often point to British abolitionist William Wilberforce who, because of his Christian conviction, tenaciously fought and ended the slave trade in the British Empire.

Last week’s landmark human trafficking law was also made possible with the help of Christians – the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission.

"The bill signing today sends an important message: 'human beings are not for sale in Texas,'" said the Commission’s director Suzii Paynter, according to Associated Baptist Press.

Paynter said the group has worked to raise awareness about human trafficking through legislative work and educating congregants.

“Sadly, the job is not done,” she noted. “The taskforce created by this legislation will continue taking steps to end human trafficking in Texas."

There are an estimated 27 million modern-day slaves around the world today, which is more than at any time during the trans-Atlantic slave trade.