Kylla Lanier of Truckers Against Trafficking speaks at a Human Trafficking Advocacy Day in Austin, with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (right) and Rep. Todd Hunter (left) in the background. (Photo: EthicsDaily.com)
Texas lawmakers have found an issue around which to unite amid a polarized political climate: human trafficking.
A bipartisan group of legislators gathered on Jan. 25, 2017, at the Texas Capitol for a press conference at which they committed to end human trafficking.
Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) cited a newly released trafficking study estimating that 313,000 people in Texas are victims of trafficking - 79,000 of whom are minors.
"We are simply not going to tolerate this in Texas," he said. A page on his website is devoted to trafficking education and prevention.
Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D) emphasized the importance of "build[ing] a society that can stamp out human trafficking."
Others speakers emphasized the need for increased awareness and engagement, highlighting the importance of collaboration between citizens, representatives, nonprofit organizations and businesses.
Kylla Lanier, deputy director of Truckers Against Trafficking, explained that empowering and equipping truck drivers to identify and report trafficking is vital.
They are "our eyes and ears on the road," she said, noting that there are more truck drivers on roads and highways each day than law enforcement.
An informational session prior to the press conference was organized by the Baptist General Convention of Texas' Christian Life Commission and featured a panel of trafficking experts.
Emily Freeborn, staff attorney at Children at Risk, and Nell Green, field personnel at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, cited two industries that enable trafficking.
Unregulated massage parlors are a prominent venue for trafficking, Freeborn said. Green stressed that "we've got to take down the porn industry" that creates demand for trafficked persons.
Jennifer Allmon of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, explained that while trafficking and immigration are interrelated, "there are just as many domestic trafficking victims [in the U.S.] as immigrant trafficking victims."
Tomi Grover, executive director of TraffickStop, summarized the scope of the challenge: "historically ... only 1 percent of trafficking victims are ever rescued."
Laramie Gorbett, human trafficking specialist at the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, spoke about the need to expand services for trafficking survivors because "trafficking survivors are among the most vulnerable to being trafficked again."
Photos from the events are available on the EthicsDaily.com Facebook page and Pinterest page.
EthicsDaily.com published earlier this month a seven-part series on how local churches and nonprofit organizations are working (and can work) to address human trafficking:
A Baptist Report Card on Human Trafficking by Robert Parham
The Thin Line Between Prostitution and Sex Trafficking by Valerie Carter
One Church's Role to Put Dent in Sex Trafficking by Duane Brooks and Jen Whittenberg
Stopping Human Trafficking Begins in Our Churches by Pam Strickland
4 Steps You Can Take to Thwart Human Trafficking by Stacy Blackmon
What Your Church Must Know to Combat Human Trafficking by Elizabeth Goatley
How Baptist Women Fight Against Modern-Day Slavery by Candice Lee