The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Rep. Flores explains need for anti-trafficking legislation

Noting that human trafficking is a problem rooted in local counties as well as internationally, members of congress approved five pieces of legislation on Tuesday aimed at combating the issue in the U.S. and abroad.
Congressman Flores (R-17) said the issue is bipartisan and of particular importance in Texas due to the attention garnered by the cities of Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas for human trafficking cases.
“Our goal now is to get the senate to take it up and get the president to sign it,” Flores said. “These are not Democrat issues or Republican issues, these are red, white and blue issues.”
The legislation was catalyzed by efforts from a number of house members who banded together to drive a public awareness campaign that would address issues of “modern-day slavery,” that are happening “right under our noses,” Flores said.
Flores attributed many human trafficking issues to the growth in demand caused by the Internet in an op-ed column published in the Waco Tribune Sunday,
“Through the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation Act, it would become a federal crime for a publisher to knowingly host or have advertisements for the commercial sex exploitation of minors and trafficking victims,” Flores wrote in the op-ed.
Flores said trafficking however extends beyond the nation’s borders. In his op-ed, he wrote that American children and children abroad could be protected under the International Megan’s Law, from known sex offenders through reciprocal communication among countries.
Flores said law enforcement officials were asking for clearer legal statutes of victims so as to better combat human trafficking.
“One of things we passed was the Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act that basically treats the victims as a victim instead of a criminal,” Flores said. “That is not just directed towards children, it’s towards every age. That would also benefit a young adult woman or man as well.”
Jennifer Terry, director of Restore Her, a local restoration program for girls who have been trafficked or are at risk, said the legislation would have a direct impact on the program.
“Due to the fact that those acts of aftercare are being passed, it helps the federal government outsource and help put our home on the radar of different options where girls can come,” Terry said. “Aftercare is necessary and would make them aware of all that we offer.”
Liz Harris, senior international studies major and member of International Justice Mission – Texas A&M Chapter, said she appreciated that human trafficking was being considered at the state and local level and that action was being taken.
“I was just really excited that somebody was recognizing the importance of this problem within our state and within our country, and it’s not just something that is an international problem – and that real steps are actually being taken to solve this issues,” Harris said.
Flores said although trafficking is not necessarily pervasive in the Brazos Valley, the statistics are still difficult to know and measure. Flores said he wouldn’t discount the likelihood that trafficking happens given the prevalence of websites like backpage.com that can “market” persons for trafficking purposes.
“We have a member, Christine Noem from South Dakota, and she was telling us about how they set up an operation with the FBI in southern part of South Dakota, which is a very conservative area, kind of like Bryan-College Station,” Flores said. “She said within a certain number of hours they had over 300 solicitations for underage sex.”
Harris said she feels this legislation comes at a time when activism for stopping human trafficking is active at the university level but that there is still room for improvement in public education.
“I do think recently there has definitely been this huge push of awareness that has been tangible especially on college campuses,” Harris said. “I think among college students it’s a little higher than the general public because so many of these [awareness] campaigns are targeted towards our age.”
Flores said collecting petition signatures can be effective, but addressing issues directly with a representative is effective as well.
“Let’s say that you have a group of Aggies that are passionate about a particular issue, many times on that, they’ll come by my office in Bryan or [Washington D.C] and they’ll describe the issue and that’s a great way to get a member of congress thinking about what needs to be done to address that particular issue,” Flores said.”
Flores said he was willing to meet with all college students to discuss issues that matter to them.
“Their future resides in what we take care of today,” Flores said.

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