Human trafficking is often described as a form of modern-day slavery through which individuals are exploited through force, fraud or coercion for labor service or commercial sex acts. State legislatures are leading the response to this fast-growing crime, according to Britanny Vanderhoof, policy counsel for the Polaris Project, a national anti-human trafficking advocacy organization. “States have really taken up the issue of human trafficking as a state issue,” she said during a recent webinar, “Human Trafficking: State Responses to Modern-Day Slavery,” presented by CSG South.

Human trafficking, a form of modern-day slavery whereby children and adults are exploited through force or coercion for sex acts or manual labor, is purported to be a multi-billion-dollar worldwide industry and one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises. The U.S. Department of State estimates that there are approximately 40,000 men, women and children who become victims of human trafficking in the United States every year. States have taken action, setting up task forces to assess the extent of this insidious practice and experimenting with policies to encourage reporting, train law enforcement personnel and increase the criminal penalties for perpetrators. 

Stateline Midwest

Over the past year, in nearly every Midwestern state, legislatures have passed new laws to address the problem of human trafficking.

More and more frequently, state and territorial attorneys general are at the forefront of dealing with great issues of the day, from combating human trafficking to enforcing consumer protection and cyberspace laws. With each year, attorneys general face additional challenges and legal landscapes. In 2012, attorneys general are shining a light on modern day slavery, as well as continuing to fight financial fraud. Additionally, Election Day 2012 will bring at least five new state attorneys general and another five who are seeking re-election.

An article in today's Washington Post reports on the flurry of new state laws targeting human trafficking, including dozens of laws to increase criminal penalties against traffickers and provide assistance to victims. 

The Council of State Governments encourages lawmakers to investigate the effects of human trafficking in their own states and act to pass legislation that will address these activities

Suggested State Legislation: According to Florida legislative staff, the federal Victims of trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 enables immigrant victims of human trafficking to get certain federal benefits once their status in the U.S. is determined.