The state's human trafficking laws need to be strengthened so people are not deprived of their basic human rights, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said.
Announcing a report on the affects of human trafficking on the Lone Star State, the Republican attorney general and state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, called for legislative changes to combat what they called modern-day slavery, in which people are transported and subjected to involuntary servitude, slavery or forced commercial sex acts.
"Human trafficking is a horrific crime that deprives its victims of basic human rights," Abbott said. "Sadly, human trafficking victims are coerced into modern day slave labor and forced prostitution rings. The State of Texas must continue to focus on preventing human trafficking and protecting its victims."
The attorney general's 57-page report, "The Texas Response to Human Trafficking," offers 21 recommendations aimed at reducing human trafficking and improving services to victims.
The report also suggests, among other things to be considered in the 2009 legislative session, increased outreach efforts to educate law enforcement officials about how to identify human trafficking.
Abbott said he wants state lawmakers to build on a 2007 law that targets people who recruit human trafficking victims and those who transport them.
Van de Putte's Senate Bill 89 would direct the attorney general to create a task force on human trafficking to assist in the prevention and prosecution of cases. The legislation also would create a fund to provide grants to help counties prosecute trafficking cases and help organizations assist victims.
The U.S. Department of State estimates that up to 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States from Asia, Central and South America, and Eastern Europe. Many more people are trafficked within the United States each year, officials said.
In Texas, which is among the U.S. Department of Justice's "most intense trafficking jurisdictions in the country," about one in five people trafficked in the United States are in Texas or were transported through the state.
"I truly believe that we are not defenseless in the struggle to end the exploitation of children and vulnerable adults, and this is why I took a stand for those caught in the ugly web of modern day slavery," Van de Putte said. "In the upcoming legislative session, I intend to further advance our efforts to eliminate human trafficking in Texas."