By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
In the waning days of the legislative session in Albany, state lawmakers were a whirlwind of activity, running around, advocating for various bills and hoping that their proposed legislation made the final cut.
With the session’s June 19 end in plain sight, Republicans from New York City, like Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) and state Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-C-Staten Island) were busy waging an 11th hour effort to try to get the assembly to pass a bill that would add more prison time to anyone convicted of human trafficking.
Both Malliotakis and Lanza took part in a rally at the State Capitol on June 17 calling on the Democratic-led assembly to pass the bill before the legislative session ends. The Republican-led senate unanimously approved the legislation, which Lanza sponsored, last week.
The lawmakers were joined at the rally by women’s rights groups.
Called the Trafficking Victims’ Protection and Justice Act, the bill is sponsored by 106 assembly members from both sides of the aisles, according to Malliotakis, who said it remained stalled in the assembly’s Codes Committee and there is no sign that it would be put on the floor for a vote.
“As we’ve seen recently, human trafficking continues to be a very real issue throughout the world and remains an issue in our state. With only two days left in the legislative session, this legislation could have life or death implications for women across the state. Sen. Lanza fought hard to deliver this legislation unanimously in the Senate and now the assembly should follow suit and pass this important bill,” Malliotakis said.
The Trafficking Victims’ Protection and Justice Act has passed the senate unanimously twice in the last two years. But there is no movement in the assembly.
“Since we passed my human trafficking bill a year ago in the senate, lives continue to be placed in danger while we wait for the assembly to join us in acting,” Lanza said.
The crime of human trafficking was a topic of a January seminar conducted by students at Fontbonne Hall Academy, a Catholic high school for girls in Bay Ridge.
The students said their research showed that the victims of human trafficking are often immigrants who arrived in the US with no money and fell into the hands of unscrupulous men who promised to get them legitimate jobs but instead forced them into prostitution.
To make their point, the students commissioned T-shirts with the slogan “Not For Sale” and wore them on the day of the seminar.
Human trafficking is a $32 billion a year industry in the U.S., second only to drug trafficking, according to the Blue Campaign, a program run by the US Department of Homeland Security.
Victims, who are often in the country illegally and do not speak English, are reluctant to seek help from authorities for fear of retribution from the people exploiting them, or fear of being deported.
There could very well be human trafficking taking place in Brooklyn, Fontbonne students said. “It’s happening right here, right under our noses,” one student said.
But students said their extensive research showed that it’s not just about sex and the victims of human trafficking aren’t always female. Victims are also forced to work on farms, in factories, at construction sites, in restaurants and bars and as housekeepers, nannies and cooks in private homes, the students said.