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New California laws target human trafficking with transit, hotel workers

Two new California laws require transit, hotel and motel employees to undergo human trafficking awareness training.
Image: CamilleWagner, Anne Gust Brown, Jerry Brown, Graciela Castillo-Krings
Gov. Jerry Brown of California reviews a measure with his wife, Anne Gust Brown, second from left, as staff members Camille Wagner, left, and Graciela Castillo-Krings look on in his office in Sacramento on Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018. Brown, who will be leaving office in January, was acting on some of the last pieces of legislation in his tenure as governor.Rich Pedroncelli / AP

LOS ANGELES — Two new California laws will require workers in certain industries to go through training to identify human trafficking as part of a package of legislation that advocates expect will help the state address the issue.

California Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed into law six bills aimed at addressing human trafficking, two of which require human trafficking awareness training in industries where workers are likely to encounter trafficking victims. The laws are scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019, with training to be complete by 2020 for hotel and motel workers and by 2021 for transit workers.

One of the bills, introduced by Assembly Member Ash Kalra, a Democrat whose district includes parts of San Jose in Northern California, requires transit employees to undergo at least 20 minutes of human trafficking awareness training. Another measure introduced by state Sen. Toni Atkins, the president pro tempore of the state Senate and a Democrat whose district includes parts of San Diego County, amends existing state law by requiring hotel and motel employers to provide workers with the same type of training.

Ruth Silver-Taube, supervising attorney of the Workers' Rights Clinic at the Katharine & George Alexander Community Law Center, a group that supported Kalra's bill, said in an email that both laws are expected to result in increased identification of trafficking survivors.

“Given the pervasive nature of human trafficking and the limited ability of law enforcement to identify and intervene in these cases, reporting from people on the ground is a valuable tool to combat the problem and protect survivors of human trafficking,” she said. “Transit workers and hotel workers are in a unique position to identify human trafficking, and the training will arm them with the knowledge and awareness to detect human trafficking.”

According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, California has had the highest number of reported cases of human trafficking in the country over the last six years, followed by Texas and Florida. Last year, 1,305 cases were reported in California.

“With the Governor's signature on AB 2034, the state has another tool to combat human trafficking and remains committed to protecting of our most marginalized populations,” Kalra wrote in an email. “Human trafficking disproportionately impacts communities of color, including API women and children — accounting for at least three quarters of reported victims of sex trafficking — and many victims are often hidden in plain sight along our transportation routes in California.”

In a 2017 report compiled by the Polaris Project, an anti-trafficking organization, only 35 percent of victims disclosed their ethnicity. Of those individuals, Latinos and Asians were the top two groups represented.

Silver-Taube said that Kalra's and Atkins' bills are a win for immigrant communities because immigrants who may find themselves in precarious situations are vulnerable and ripe for exploitation by human traffickers. According to the Polaris Project, recent migration or relocation is the top risk factor for human trafficking. And according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, hotels and motels are common locations for sex trafficking.

“Ensuring that transit workers and hotel workers who regularly interact with this population have the knowledge and awareness to identify and report human trafficking will help these immigrants escape from servitude,” she said.

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