Desert Sun

Oct 12, 2012   

Our Voice:Taking appropriate steps to stop human trafficking
According to the proponents of Proposition 35, human trafficking is among the fastest-growing forms of criminal activity in the world. A modern-day form of slavery, forcing vulnerable young people into prostitution or forced labor is despicable.

The Obama administration this year redoubled its efforts to stop human trafficking. In July, more than 100 representatives from the U.S. and Mexico met in Los Angeles to strengthen prosecution efforts. And the Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force held workshops throughout the county this summer, including one on Palm Springs.

The task force concluded:

• California is the No. 1 state for human trafficking.

• The Inland Empire is a hotbed for human trafficking.

• Aside from drug dealing, human trafficking is tied with arms smuggling as the second-largest criminal industry in the world.

Increasing penalties and fines to stop this practice is appropriate. The Desert Sun supports Proposition 35, with some reservations.

No. 1, we wonder why these steps weren’t taken by the Legislature. There is little opposition to the initiative. Voters Edge reports that proponents have raised $2.8 million, but no funds have been raised to oppose Proposition 35. And the argument against it and the rebuttal to the arguments in favor were written by the Erotic Service Providers Union — not an organization you would expect will persuade a majority of voters.

Like so many initiatives, parts of this one are flawed. For instance, the legislative analyst points out that it would declare duplicating or selling obscene material depicting minors a form of human trafficking. Such activity is also despicable, but there are already laws against it and it doesn’t rise to the same level as human trafficking.

Also, some prosecutors are concerned about broad language that would make evidence of commercial activity inadmissible to prove a victim’s criminal liability. In a legislative setting, these flaws could be ironed out. That can’t happen at the ballot box.

Nevertheless, we don’t believe those concerns are enough to merit opposition to Proposition 35.

It would increase prison terms:

• From five to 12 years for labor trafficking.

• From five to 20 years for forced sex trafficking of an adult.

• From eight years to life in prison for forced sex trafficking of a minor.

Currently, no penalty is recommended for sex trafficking of a minor without force. Proposition 35 would require 12 years in prison for that offense.

It also would increase fines for sex trafficking of a minor from up to $100,000 to fines of up to $1.5 million for all forms of human trafficking. About 70 percent of the fines would go to social service agencies such as SafeHouse of the Desert, which provides an emergency shelter for runaway teens in Thousand Palms. The rest would go to law enforcement.

Human trafficking must not be tolerated in a civilized world. This powerful response to a heinous crime is urgently needed.

Vote yes on Proposition 35.

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