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Meghan Ashford-Grooms
By Meghan Ashford-Grooms May 25, 2011

Perry signs bills with stricter penalties for human trafficking

Bipartisanship has helped Gov. Rick Perry earn a Promise Kept from the Perry-O-Meter for his pledge to toughen the state's laws against human trafficking.

Perry, a Republican from West Texas, appeared at a May 25 signing ceremony for two bills imposing stricter penalties on those guilty of trafficking with the two Democratic authors of those bills, a senator from San Antonio and a House member from Houston.

Senate Bill 24 by Sen. Leticia Van de Putte enacts proposals that were recommended by a task force on human-trafficking prevention created in 2009. Among other changes, the legislation increases to a first-degree felony the offense of compelling a child into prostitution and requires that repeat offenders receive a life sentence.

The Senate approved the legislation March 23, and the House followed April 7. Perry signed it April 21.

House Bill 3000 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson creates a new first-degree felony — "continuous trafficking of persons" — to apply to repeat offenders. The punishment can range from 25 years to life in prison.

The House passed the legislation April 14, and the Senate followed May 13. Perry signed it May 25.

We rate this promise Kept.

Human-trafficking legislation moving through the Legislature

During the campaign, Gov. Rick Perry urged the Texas legislature to crack down on human trafficking with criminal penalties ranging from 25 years to life.

"Human traffickers prey on the hopes and dreams of their victims, promising better lives, when unfortunately what awaits is a life of confinement, criminal activity and physical and mental abuse," Perry said in a Aug. 19 press release. "I'm here today to call upon the Texas Legislature to further toughen the laws against these traffickers. Those who would commit these heinous crimes need to know if they're caught in Texas, they won't see the light of day for a very long time."

Six months later, he appeared in Houston with Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, Democrats who have filed identical legislation that imposes stricter penalties on forced-labor and forced-sex trade criminals.

On March 23, the Senate voted unanimously in favor of Van de Putte's bill, which increases to a first-degree felony the penalty for compelling a child into prostitution. Those who are convicted of trafficking multiple times would be eligible for an automatic life sentence.

Van de Putte and Thompson have also filed legislation to create a new criminal offense — "continuous trafficking of persons" — a first degree felony that could land someone in prison for 25 to 99 years to life, according to a March 22 press release Perry issued.

We rate this promise In the Works.

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