Wagner Introduces Bipartisan Trafficking Survivors Relief Act
WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO), along with Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), today introduced the bipartisan Trafficking Survivors Relief Act, which would allow victims of human trafficking to petition courts to have their criminal records cleared. This bill would apply to non-violent crimes committed by individuals as a direct result of human trafficking, and would allow for judicial discretion.
Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery affecting millions in the United States and abroad. This crime involves either the use of force, fraud, or coercion to exploit a person for labor or commercial sex, or the exploitation of a minor for commercial sex. As a result of being trafficked, victims are commonly charged with crimes such as conspiracy, prostitution, money laundering, drug trafficking, and related offenses that then follow them throughout the duration of their lives. These charges make it difficult for human trafficking victims to find jobs and housing, leaving them vulnerable to being exploited and trafficked again.
“We have a moral obligation to protect survivors of trafficking who were arrested or convicted for offenses that they were forced to commit,” said Congresswoman Ann Wagner. “No victims of trafficking should be criminalized for the horrific exploitation they have endured. I am proud that through the Trafficking Survivors Relief Act, we are giving survivors a fresh start and an opportunity to recover from trauma, social stigma, and discrimination.”
“Tens of thousands of men, women, and children are victims of human trafficking each year. Too often, they are charged as criminals, thrown in prison, and shackled with a criminal record the rest of their lives instead of being free to get the care and assistance they need. The Trafficking Survivors Relief Act will empower human trafficking victims to escape the chains of their past and move forward with their lives,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.
“Holding victims of human trafficking accountable for illegal acts committed while being victimized is unfair and diminishes their ability to find work, receive an education, and secure safe housing,” said Congressman Sensenbrenner. “These victims deserve a fresh start and a fair shot at rebuilding their lives, and the Trafficking Survivors Relief Act would help them do just that.”
Additional original co-sponsors of the legislation include Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA), Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA), Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA), Rep. Ron DeSantis (R- FL), Rep. Steve Knight (R-CA), Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN), Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN), Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD), Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL), Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX), Rep. David Joyce (R-OH), Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Rep. David Young (R-IA), Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), and Ryan Costello (R-PA).
The Trafficking Survivors Relief Act would require survivors to provide supporting documentation in order to get their non-violent criminal records vacated. These documents can include the following:
· Certified criminal or immigration court proceedings or law enforcement records demonstrating that the individual was a victim of trafficking at the time they were charged with the trafficking-related offense(s);
· Testimony or sworn statement from a trained professional staff member of a victim services organization, an attorney, member of the clergy, a health care professional, a therapist, or other professional from whom the person has sought assistance in addressing the trauma associated with being a victim of trafficking; or
· An affidavit or sworn testimony of the movant indicating that they were a victim of human trafficking at the time of their arrest and that they engaged in or were otherwise accused of engaging in criminal activities as a direct result of being a victim of human trafficking.