New California State Human Trafficking Legislation

This past weekend California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a whole slew of forward thinking legislation—from a ban on plastic bags, addressing the mounting issue of environmental degradation, to the Yes Means Yes law, regarding sexual assault, to seven, I repeat SEVEN new pieces of legislation furthering the state’s stance against human trafficking. These laws increase the rights of victims, the penalties of those hurting them, and the resources for preventing trafficking in the first place.

62One law, SB 1165, allows for sexual abuse sex trafficking prevention education to be implemented in schools and requires that it be included in the Health Framework for Public Schools. Love Never Fails, a bay area- based anti trafficking organization, has already created a curriculum which they call “Love Don’t Hurt” centered around themes of abuse and are gearing up to include the new aspects provided for in this bill.

Another incredibly important bill, which acts as a deterrent against labor trafficking, is SB 477. It requires foreign labor contractors (the middle men between foreign laborers and their potential bosses) to register with the Labor Commissioner before hiring any day laborers or migrant workers, etc. They must provide the commissioner with certain information as well as a fee that would cover any transgressions of the rest of the bill. The contractor is also required to disclose certain information to the foreign laborer, regarding the laborer’s rights, the specifications of the work contract, information about the employer, and an itemized list of expenses. The contractor is prohibited from changing the contract without the laborer’s complete understanding and consent, charging the laborer any additional fees, especially prior to working, or charging the laborer housing fees above the comparable market price. If the contractor violates any of these provisions, he/she is liable to pay a fine and serve time in the county jail, as well as paying the laborers any damages and fees. As Senate Pro Tempe, the author of this bill (which is actually a revision of last years SB 517 which Governor Brown vetoed) noted, “We’ve heard many horror stories of foreign workers who obtain visas and are recruited by foreign labor contractors to work here, only to become victims of abusive working conditions. Those workers often find themselves in what amounts to indentured servitude as well, as they’re forced to pay-off excessive ‘recruitment’ fees. These tougher regulations will help protect these hardworking men and women from human trafficking and other abuses.” CAST LA points out that 14% of the nation’s temporary foreign workers reside in California, making up 130,000 undocumented workers. This law will protect their rights and ensure that they are not trafficked into an abusive system. As California hosts three of the top 13 US cities for Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego), it was imperative that some of the legislation revolve around this aspect of the crime. Both SB 1388 and AB 1791 increase the penalities for crimes committed against minors, including the solicitation of a minor prostitute. Furthermore, AB 1585 increases the rights of victims of human trafficking convicted of prostitution—allowing them to petition the court to eliminate their conviction by proving that it was the result trafficking situation. It is true that California is permeated with the horrors of human trafficking, in every industry, yet our legislature have begun to truly see combatting modern day slavery as a priority, and are committed to letting their votes count.

 

Here is the complete list of this week’s anti-trafficking legislation, as taken directly from Governor Jerry Brown’s website:

 

“SACRAMENTO – Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today signed legislation to better protect victims of human trafficking and bills to support education, prevention and law enforcement efforts to fight trafficking.

 

The Governor signed the following bills today:

 

  • AB 1585 by Assemblymember Luis Alejo (D-Salinas): Allows a victim of human trafficking who was convicted of solicitation or prostitution, but can prove that the conviction was the result of their status as a victim of human trafficking, to petition the court to set aside the conviction.
  • AB 1610 by Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Alameda): Permits conditional examination of a material witness or victim when a defendant has been charged with human trafficking and there is evidence the witness has been dissuaded from testifying at trial.
  • AB 1791 by Assemblymember Brian Maienschein (R-San Diego): Strengthens penalties for human trafficking crimes involving minors.
  • SB 477 by Senator Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento): Requires foreign labor contractors to register with the Labor Commissioner and penalizes intimidation, discrimination and other violations to prevent the exploitation of foreign workers.
  • SB 955 by Senator Holly J. Mitchell (D-Los Angeles): Adds human trafficking to the offenses for which interception of electronic communications may be ordered by a court.
  • SB 1165 by Senator Holly J. Mitchell (D-Los Angeles): Permits sex trafficking prevention education in school districts and ensures it will be considered for inclusion in the Health Framework for California Public Schools.
  • SB 1388 by Senator Ted W. Lieu (D-Torrance): Increases fines for the solicitation of an act of prostitution involving a minor.

 

For full text of the bills, visit: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov”

 

 

To read more about the passing of these bills, read these articles:

CBS Sacramento: Gov. Brown Signs Bills Upgrading Human Trafficking Laws

LA Times: Gov. Brown signs laws to crack down on human trafficking

SacBee: Jerry Brown Signs Human Trafficking Bills

 

 

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Lobbying 101

Last week, in my group, Students Against Modern Slavery, I gave a short lesson on how to lobby and thought it would be valuable to share with you tips on how to lobby, in case you want to take your awareness about human trafficking to the next level by persuading a legislator to support anti-trafficking legislation. As I described in an earlier post, I lobbied Zoe Lofgren about the Human Trafficking Prioritization Act and successfully convinced her to cosponsor it. I also learned much of what I know through International Justice Misson’s Freedom Commons, so definitely check them out for more insight (I will include more resources at the end).

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When you are lobbying, you essentially want to effectively articulate a specific request in a short amount of time. It is crucial that you establish a context for your meeting, explain the issue, how you want your legislator to solve it, and leave having made a feasibly accomplished request. In order to accomplish this, you will need to have 1) done a good amount of primary research (which, lucky for you, I will help out with!) and 2) a clear meeting plan.

 

The planning stages:

It is important to have a strong basic knowledge of

  • the legislator** you are speaking to (check out how they have voted in the past on other trafficking-related bills here for the House or here for the Senate). Also, definitely do a little bit of research about the legislator and the issues that he or she cares about via his or her website.
  • the bill you are meeting with your legislator to discuss (Look up any piece of legislation here).
  • any potential issues about the bill that people have debated, things that may come up in the meeting (check out blogs or other articles written about it).

Then you should outline your meeting and rehearse it (no shame in talking to yourself in the mirror!) so that you are confident when you are sitting in front of the legislator. I learned the “4 Cs” of lobbying from the International Justice Mission and would highly recommend organizing your meeting in such a way.

Connect:  

Briefly introduceScreen Shot 2014-05-12 at 11.12.06 PM yourself (2 minutes max) and establish yourself as an authority on the topic, explaining why the legislator should want to listen to you. This could include where you live (especially if it is in his or her constituency), the organization you are representing, and/or the work you have done/ way you have been exposed to human trafficking. If you have any way of forging a more intimate connection with the legislator, this would be the time to do it. (“My daughter goes to the school you went to.” “I saw you speak at such&such convention.” “We go to the same church.” “I was from Boston myself!”… whatever it may be!)

 

Context: 

This is where you establish why you are there and what you have come to talk about. I would suggest transitioning from connect to context by putting the legislator in his or her context. For example, you may begin with,  “As your voting record shows, you are already quite aware of the prevalence of human trafficking. I would like to thank you for voting for XYZ bill.” Make them feel good and appreciated. Legislators work hard and get a lot more backlash than praise, so showing that you recognize that they do positive work will set your meeting on the right foot. Once you’ve provided a context of why you are there specifically, give some context on the issue as a whole. This may mean giving some data, but also giving a short tidbit of how that data looks in the real world. Stories and statistics are always stronger together than alone, so try to give both, but no matter how you decide to capture human trafficking, ensure that you are painting it in its pervasiveness, not just as one sad story you heard about in India or whatever. Based on your research of the legislator, you will know how expansive his or her knowledge is about the topic. Some you may just need to say, “As you surely know, 27 million people are still enslaved to this day,” while others may need a more comprehensive definition of human trafficking and all that it entails. As well as short context on human trafficking, you will need to establish the specific reason you are there–basically the bill (what the problem is and how the bill will fix it). Read here about how I explained this problem-and-solution concept in terms of the Human Trafficking Prioritization Act. Basically, I told Zoe about the strength and comparative effectiveness of the Trafficking in Person’s Office in DC, yet how it is prevented from having the full capacity of impact because it is not a bureau (and thus does not have a seat at the table when State Department decisions are being made). I explained that this bill sought to promote it from an office to a bureau. It was simple and clear cut–a problem and a solution.

COMMITMENT:

Screen Shot 2014-05-12 at 11.06.57 PMNow that the legislator understands the issue, you need to have him or her commit to a specific plan of action (hint: this is the reason you are there!). By doing research on the bill and where it is in the legislative process (on this website), you will know what you should ask the legislator for. It may be to cosponsor it. It may be to have them talk to the head of someone on another subcommittee to encourage that person to move it along. If the bill is in their subcommittee or scheduled to be on the floor for debate, your request may even be to vote for it. Make sure your question is direct and clear, “Can I count on you to cosponsor this bill?” If they are unable to commit at your meeting, organize a time to follow up with them.

 

CATAPULT:

Look towards the future. Offer yourself as a resource in case they have any further questions, but more importantly, determine when you can follow up with the legislator or an aid about your request (make sure to pick up a business card). “Can I email you in two weeks for an answer? I will be available any time for information.” Give them your own contact information and also leave them a folder with further resources (statistics that you did not have time to address in the meeting, the full text of the bill, etc). And, of course, thank the legislator for his or her time.

After you leave, shoot off an email or letter of thanks to acknowledge the time and energy the legislator set aside for you.

 

SETTING IT UP:

While you are preparing, you need to actually set up your meeting~~on the legislator’s website, there may be a section to “Set Up A Meeting” or a contact page (look for the scheduler or chief of staff). Basically, just keep sending stuff (tactfully… wait a few days between emails) until you get a response. Usually, legislators are very busy and it may take a little while for a response, but if you show your resiliency, you will likely be rewarded. Also, the legislator may be in his or her DC (or state capitol) office when you want to meet. In this case, you can either meet with a staffer (totally recommended, see below) or wait until he or she comes back to your area. Either works, it is really up to you.

 

I am going to include a list of more resources (some repeated from the above links), for your research pleasure. Good luck and go get involved! Politics are so much more accessible than people think! And at the end of the day, politicians want to hear what you have to say~~show the passion (but really show that you intellectually know what you are talking about) and they will want to work to put it into practice!

 

Find your rep: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

The 4 C’s of Lobbying:http://freedomcommons.ijm.org/resources/resources-your-district-meeting/sample-district-meeting-agenda-four-cs

More tips for your meeting:http://freedomcommons.ijm.org/resources/resources-your-district-meeting/tips-successful-meeting-members-congress

The meeting I did as an example:https://docs.google.com/document/d/1N4GSgNNZ4K93TCsJVlAWo41sBHA_VT_ZWiF3iqMTauU/edit?usp=sharing

Read the bill (if you want to lobby about the same one as me): http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d113:H.R.2283:@@@P

Check out how your congressperson is doing (what they’ve voted for in the past): http://freedomcommons.ijm.org/house-scorecard

ALSO COME TO THIS ADVOCACY SUMMIT:http://freedomcommons.ijm.org/action-alert/advocacy-summit-2014-action-alert

More Resources: http://freedomcommons.ijm.org/resources/resources-your-district-meeting
(a TON more resources for preparing for your meeting).

Kate Case: (to contact if you want to set up a meeting on the West Coast or just for further advice~~The first time you email her, just say that I (Izzy Ullmann) gave you her info… she’ll know who I am)
kcase@ijm.org
Kate Case | Regional Advocacy Coordinator, West
Government Relations & Advocacy
INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE MISSION
916.335.6934 | @IJMcampaigns

 

**every time I say “legislator,” this could also be a staffer~~do not be disappointed if you end up meeting with a staffer instead. They actually are the ones doing the research and passing it on to the legislators along with their own recommendations.