House Representative

Wu, Gene

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 06/11/2015

BILL TO PROTECT CHILD VICTIMS OF TRAFFICKING SIGNED INTO LAW

AUSTIN - Governor Abbott signed House Bill 418, authored by Representative Gene Wu (Houston), into law on Tuesday. Representative Wu authored the bill to help rescue children who are victims of human trafficking or sex trafficking. Effective September 1, 2015, House Bill 418 will allow law enforcement and Child Protective Services (CPS) to immediately take suspected child victims of trafficking into protective custody and place them into care.

"This law will provide real protection for child victims of trafficking," said Wu. "Police officers will now have the ability to place child victims in protective custody—instead of trying to find ways to arrest or confine victims in order to protect them."

In 2010, the Supreme Court of Texas ruled that children under 14 years of age could not be charged with prostitution. This placed law enforcement and CPS in difficult positions when encountering child victims of trafficking. Under the 2010 ruling, case workers could only hope to locate the victims after they returned with a court order. The process to procure a court order can take days and provides an opportunity for children to run away; or, in worse cases, enables the traffickers to find the child and take them away. Under House Bill 418, CPS or police can take a child victim into protective custody, and then approach a judge for an order, closing a dangerous time gap.

"The Houston area is considered a hub for human trafficking and children are often preyed upon, coerced, and brainwashed," said Wu. "We need laws that provide more tools and resources for victims, and that's what we were able to accomplish with this bill." Wu went on, "I will continue to work on passing legislation like House Bill 418 to protect our kids and put an end to modern day slavery."

"I especially want to thank the judges of the 315th Juvenile Court in Harris County, Hon. Michael Schneider and Hon. Angela Ellis, for their help on this bill," said Wu. "With their counsel we found a way to solve a chronic problem in our system and better protect our most vulnerable children."

contact: Beth Martin