AUSTIN, TX (STL.News) – Appearing yesterday before the Senate State Affairs Committee, Attorney General Ken Paxton testified in support of Senate Bill 1257, which would give the attorney general’s office concurrent jurisdiction on human trafficking cases to further the state’s effort to combat modern-day slavery.
Below is an excerpt from Attorney General Paxton’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
“To put it bluntly, human trafficking is modern-day slavery and it is happening right here in Texas. Research from 2016 indicates that at any given time there are an estimated 313,000 victims of human trafficking in Texas. The size of the problem dwarfs the number of human trafficking prosecutions being brought in this state as it stands today.
“Last year, district courts saw a total of 121 charges filed for trafficking in persons and 106 cases filed for compelling prostitution. All of those charges were filed in just 18 out of Texas’ 254 counties. That means 236 counties – around 93 percent of all counties – had no human trafficking prosecutions in 2018.
“My office has a proven track record of working with federal and local law enforcement to bring down human traffickers. I formally announced the creation of the Human Trafficking and Transnational Organized Crime Section in January 2016. It is dedicated to the investigation and prosecution of human traffickers. The unit has resolved more than 20 cases and obtained a total of 327 years in prison for traffickers.
“The attorney general’s office is uniquely positioned to tackle this issue, and stands ready to do so. We have the experience and the expertise. Our human trafficking unit is made up of several nationally-recognized experts who have been at the forefront of the fight against human trafficking.
“My office is here to assist Texas district attorneys in the incredible responsibility they have on behalf of the people of this state. Granting the attorney general’s office jurisdiction on cases will help ensure human traffickers are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Senate Bill 1257, authored by state Senator Joan Huffman, would give the attorney general’s office full concurrent jurisdiction over multi-jurisdictional human trafficking cases and concurrent jurisdiction with district attorney right of first refusal for single-jurisdictional human trafficking cases.