Local organizations support House bill 159 combating human trafficking

House Bill 159

Two South Florida members of the Florida Legislature, State Representative and Caribbean-American Barrington Russell of Lauderhill, and State Senator Perry Thurston, of Fort Lauderdale, have sponsored House bill 159 and Senate bill 596 respectively. Both bills aim to reduce the scourge of human trafficking. 

Representative Russell was motivated to sponsor House Bill 159 because of evidence that human trafficking is on the rise in America. He cited information from the Florida Department of Children and Families that the number of reported cases of human trafficking was over 35 percent higher between 2016 and 2017 nationally and over 50 percent higher in Florida.

Right in our backyard

This unfortunate information isn’t lost on South Florida’s Lavern Deer, President of the Female Development World Organization (FDWO), In a statement Deer said, “Human trafficking is happening right here in our backyard and an increased awareness is needed to prevent this. Children are being trafficked as early as the 6th grade! These are elementary school children.”  

Deer says her organization fully supports the initiatives pending in the house through Russell’s and Thurston’s bills to curb human trafficking.

HB 159 and SB 596

House Bill (HB) 159 – Control of Human Trafficking, sponsored by State Representative Russell is seeking the Florida State Department of Legal Affairs to develop public awareness campaigns around human trafficking and to establish a toll-free human trafficking reporting hotline. The companion Senate bill ( SB 596) sponsored by Senator Thurston seeks similar objectives.

 If these bills are passed by the Florida Legislature there would be  identification of warning signs of trafficking, identification of a trafficked person, and overall increased awareness of human trafficking in Florida communities that are the most vulnerable.

Could be effective July 1

Once the bills are passed and signed by Florida’s governor, they would come into effect on July 1, 2018. However, according to Russel, “To make this happen, We will have to get the bills through their respective committees of reference. They are currently in their first stop in the Criminal Justice Subcommittee in both the House and Senate”.

 Organizations supporting bill

Local humanitarian groups including the Female Development World Organization, the Metropolitan Dade County Section National Council of Negro Women Inc., Give Me Dignity Inc., Victor B Williams Founder of Quest2Freedom and Retired Special Agent, ICE/Homeland Security Investigations and the Kiwanis Club of Lauderhill have loaned their voices to the support of this bill through the House and Senate Criminal Justice Subcommittees to ensure it makes its way to the floor for a “yes” vote.

Contact committee chair

Deer says the FDWO is “encouraging every member of our Florida community to contact the chair of these committees and to implore them to schedule this desperately necessary bill for a hearing. Community members are also asked to contact their state legislators- this additional support may help ensure this bill’s success.”

The chair of the respective committees are: Related to HB 159, Representative Ross Spano – House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, Tel. 850-717-5059; Re SB596 –  Senator Randolph Bracy, Senate Criminal Justice Subcommittee, Tel. 850-487-5011.

According to Deer, the mission of the FDWO, headquartered in Pompano Beach, Florida, is to positively impact the Education, Health, and Social Development of girls and young women across the African Diaspora. She says this mission can be accomplished by aggressively engaging communities, their leaders, organizations, and government representatives to foster increased and consistent awareness of the systemic problems impeding such development across the diaspora and most specifically, in socio-economically challenged communities.

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