Sen. Emmons targets human trafficking

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LANSING — Sen. Judy Emmons joined concerned mid-Michigan women at the state Capitol on Tuesday to help raise awareness of human trafficking and announce that she will be re-introducing her legislation to help stop human trafficking by strengthening the punishment for soliciting a minor to commit prostitution.

“Human trafficking remains a $32 billion global criminal enterprise that devastates the lives of thousands of women and children every year. Only the illegal drug trade is more lucrative,” said Emmons, R-Sheridan. “As a mother and grandmother, it is particularly alarming to me that two of every three victims are female and 80 percent of victims are exploited sexually – with 40 percent of cases involving the sexual exploitation of a child. Michigan has the chance to take a leading role in protecting our children and ending this modern-day slavery.”

Emmons’ legislation would make the solicitation of a minor age 16 or 17 to commit prostitution or another lewd or immoral act a felony punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of not more than $10,000 or both.

“I will be re-introducing these measures to crack down on this deplorable crime by targeting the root of the problem: the individuals who solicit prostitutes,” said Emmons, chair of the Senate Families, Seniors and Human Services Committee. “I am committed to the fight against human trafficking and will be working with my colleagues to form a larger, comprehensive package to stop these deviant and criminal actions.

“I have personally made it my mission to send a message to the rest of the nation that Michigan does not take a backseat to such horrific crimes.”

Emmons said that people are astounded to learn that human trafficking happens in Michigan.

“People think that these types of crimes only happen overseas, but the reality is that we have it happening in our Michigan hometowns,” Emmons said. “In fact, Michigan is a hot spot for trafficking due to our border with Canada and our waterways. We have seen cases of traffickers prostituting minors at our Michigan truck stops and cases where escort services have brought young women from Detroit and Chicago and force them into prostitution in Hawaii.”

Emmons applauded Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette for creating a Human Trafficking Unit. In March 2012, the unit secured the first conviction under Michigan’s human trafficking laws that were strengthened in 2010.

“We must raise awareness that human trafficking is happening here, educate people about how to identify the crimes and ensure offenders are severely punished,” Emmons said. “I am working on spreading awareness with a brochure, ‘Human Trafficking 101: Know the Signs.’ It is designed to help locals put information into the community about what to look for in potential trafficking.”

Emmons said she is also planning to host educational events this spring to gather information from experts and advocacy groups to further discuss solutions and promote awareness.

During the press conference, Emmons and advocates from across the state wore blue ribbons – meant to symbolize the importance of bringing human trafficking to the front burner and to give hope to those currently being held as slaves and to surviving human trafficking victims.

Editor’s Note: A print-quality photograph is available by visiting Sen. Emmons’ website at: www.SenatorJudyEmmons.com. Click on “Photowire.”

Video and audio comments by Sen. Emmons also will be available on the website under “Podcasts” and “Video.”

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