The Public Safety Committee of the California Assembly, dominated by Democrats, recently faced significant backlash due to their refusal to endorse critical legislation aimed at combatting human trafficking. The bill in question, HB 14, proposed classifying the trafficking of minors as a severe felony. Despite the horrifying extent of human trafficking in California and the worldwide scale of this crime, the committee’s decision paints a disconcerting picture. The only backing for this essential legislation came from the two Republican members of the committee, which has been met with praise.
The HB 14 bill was a well-thought-out response to the dire scenario of human trafficking in California and globally. It clearly mentioned that California is the leading state in reported human trafficking cases according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Additionally, the bill emphasized the staggering $150 billion annual turnover of this rapidly expanding criminal enterprise. The passing of this bill would have led to the enforcement of California’s Three Strikes Law against individuals involved in minor trafficking, subsequently leading to life imprisonment for repeat offenders.
HB 14 noted:
“California consistently ranks number one in the nation in the number of human trafficking cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.” Adding, “Human trafficking is among the world’s fastest growing criminal enterprises and is estimated to be a $150,000,000,000 a year global industry.”
However, the Chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, Reggie Jones-Sawyer, surprisingly emerged as a staunch critic of this bill, causing concern among its supporters. Republican state Senator Shannon Grove, a co-author of the bill, voiced her indignation over the Democrats’ rejection of this crucial legislation. Senator Grove astutely pointed out the paradox in the California law that perceives crimes like bank robbery and arson as severe felonies, while child trafficking does not fall under the same stringent classification.
“I am profoundly disappointed that committee Democrats couldn’t bring themselves to support the bill, with their stubborn and misguided objection to any penalty increase regardless of how heinous the crime,” Grove said. “You can pass a note to a bank and rob a bank, you can commit arson, and that’s considered a serious felony. But to traffic a minor child in the state of California is not. That’s wrong.”
Despite attempts by Senator Grove and her team to engage with Jones-Sawyer, they received no constructive response. Furthermore, the committee, known for previously dismissing proposals for stricter penalties on severe crimes, again showed resistance in this case, inviting widespread criticism. The committee’s decision to block HB 14 has triggered public outrage and heightened the call for reforms in California’s approach towards combating human trafficking, especially among its vulnerable youth.