(Please note: The Joint Religious Legislative Coalition is authorized and governed by four Sponsoring Members, including the Minnesota Catholic Conference. Read more here.)
March 18, 2013
Dear Chairman Huntley and Members,
Human trafficking is a modern form of slavery and one of the most heinous violations of human rights in our time. Human trafficking is a significant problem here in Minnesota. According to recent reports:
• In 2008, the FBI declared Minneapolis the eighth worst city in the United States for trafficking of juveniles;
• The incidence of online sex trafficking advertisements in Minnesota increased 55% in just six months from February to August 2010;
• Minnesota law enforcement says that sex trafficking of girls is happening in every city and every county in the state.
Human trafficking targets people whose safety net has eroded and whose options for self-sufficiency are few. Traffickers may lure their victims into servitude with promises of economic and emotional security, but, ultimately, traffickers force victims to perform work or services under threat of violence, coercion, and other methods of intimidation. By forcing their victims into prolonged mental, emotional, and physical deprivation and abuse, traffickers rob victims of their free will and human dignity.
Research by the State’s Human Trafficking Task Force indicates that sex trafficking is the most prevalent form of human trafficking within the state, especially of women and children. It is now believed that the typical age of a child being forced into trafficking in North America is between 11 and 14. And based on FBI data from 2008, Minneapolis was identified as one of thirteen U.S. cities having a high concentration of criminal activity involving the commercial sexual exploitation of juveniles.
Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike believe that all people are created in the image of God and are blessed with God-given dignity. It is the duty of faith communities in Minnesota to stand up against traffickers who treat other human beings as objects to be bought and sold, and to advocate on behalf of those who have little power to defend their human rights. People of faith are ready to join this effort in greater force.
We strongly support HF 485 (Allen) and its appropriation of funds for statewide, specialized services that address the highly particularized needs of trafficking victims, including case management, safe housing, language interpretation, and legal services. We can’t over-emphasize the importance of funding as there are currently only four shelter beds in the entire state dedicated to child sex trafficking victims – far short of the 35 to 40 we will need when the Safe Harbor law goes into effect in August 2014.
JOINT RELIGIOUS LEGISLATIVE COALITION (JRLC)
Brian A. Rusche