According to the Polaris Project, for the first time, a majority of states have significant laws to battle trafficking. Last year, legislatures in 39 states passed anti-trafficking laws. Human trafficking, as defined by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, can be the recruitment, transportation or harboring of people by means of force, deception or coercion. Victims, often mentally and physically abused, can be forced into prostitution, unfair working conditions or other exploitative situations.
Polaris Project , which runs the U.S. human trafficking hotline, has been ranking states for four years on anti-trafficking laws and the protections they afford to victims. The group considers whether laws lower the burden of proof for prosecuting trafficking of minors, vacate convictions of trafficking victims and mandate training for law enforcement officials. The rankings are based on a 12-point scale and divided into four tiers. New Jersey and Washington ranked highest on the list achieving perfect scores of 12, while South Dakota was the only state in the bottom tier. Overall, 32 states were in the top tier. Tier one states have passed “significant laws,” while tier four states have not made “minimal efforts.”
Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco, executive director of the Justitia Institute, a non-profit group that researches human trafficking, immigration and social justice, said a high rank does not mean a state is effectively combating human trafficking. “There needs to be research to evaluate whether these laws are having the outcome they are intended to have and that they are being put in to action,” she said.
Cindy McCain, wife of U.S. Senator John McCain and co-chair of a trafficking task force set up by Arizona’s governor, has a similar concern and has been working with Polaris Project. State and federal officials must make sure trafficking initiatives receive financial support, McCain said. She added that states in the West — including Arizona, which received only four points on Polaris’ scale — must take a hard look at what they are doing and educate the public. “This (trafficking) will absolutely affect them (states) economically,” McCain said. “It will affect their children. It will affect their neighborhoods. It has so many different facets to it and it has so many opportunities to really make a difference.”
Learn more at Yamiche Alcindor’s USA Today article: Dozens of states pass laws to fight human trafficking.