By Tomi L. Grover, Ph.D.
January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. In conjunction with this, advocates from across Texas are preparing to address their 85th session legislative representatives and senators on the issues pertaining to human trafficking. According to the online Texas Legislature resources, there appear to be 17 bills that have already been introduced. This is an opportune time to help our elected leaders understand the concerns of their constituency related to human trafficking and which bills on which to focus.
Here are some easy tips for becoming an anti-human trafficking advocate this session.
Step 1: Decide which bills you support and why.
A little preparation will help you know what to say and which bills you want your representative and/or senator to support.
1. Look at the bills that are up for action at the link above. Don’t get confused by all the legal mumbo-jumbo; just check the summary details well enough to be versed on what the bill is about. Look for those that focus on the areas of prosecution, punishment, education, intervention, and care or restoration of victims. Decide which of those are most pertinent to your interests and compare those to the recommendations of others.
2. Check the list of priorities set by the Office of the Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force. This group has been working diligently since 2010 to make recommendations that will help identify, prosecute, and punish offenders, as well as care for victims. They are on the front lines and know what they need to accomplish their tasks. There is a report currently available with 11 recommendations for this 85th session. Linked here: https://texasattorneygeneral.gov/files/agency/20162911_htr_fin.pdf Be sure to check pages 21-25 for their specific 11 recommendations.
3. Check the recommendations and priorities of organizations that work on this issue. One such organization is Children at Risk. They have a list posted on their website http://childrenatrisk.org/content/?page_id=15546 -- scroll down to the human trafficking section. Their priorities are mainly on child sex trafficking.
4. Determine your list of priorities based on what you value. Review the materials on human trafficking provided by the Christian Life Commission at http://texasbaptists.org/ministries/clc/public-policy/issues/human-trafficking.
As you determine your priorities and values on the bills being presented remember human trafficking requires a comprehensive approach because it is truly a public health problem affecting many people. The issues enumerated in the lists provided above, focus mainly on prosecution and punishment. A few focus on intervention, education, and important aspects for the care and restoration of victims. Our goals should be holistic in the approach to make the most impact on reducing the harms and restoring the victims.
Step 2: Find out who represents you.
After you have prepared well, the next step is to find out who your representatives are. This website uses your Zip code/address to give you all your federal and state elected leaders: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/mnuAddress.aspx. You will want to focus on your Texas State representative and senator and reach out to them by phone or email. The links are all right on the results page.
Never underestimate the power of one phone call. For every one person who contacts his or her representative and senator, the offices use a multiplier factor to estimate the number of others in the district who might be like-minded. This also means one way to be a good advocate is to get other folks on board with giving their two-cents worth and calling, too.
Step 3: Make the call or visit.
1. Contact your representative and senator -- The staff will make appointments for you to meet with staff or the elected official. You can go to the Capitol and meet in their offices. The easiest way to let them know your concerns is to call and talk to their staff members. Their notes get passed along to their boss and help to inform their votes on bills.
2. Be prepared, be brief, be concise, be empowered to make a difference. This does not require a long visit or phone call. Stick to the agenda you have created.
Step 4: Multiply your hard work.
Get your like-minded friends involved. Show them your preparation and ask them to call, write, or visit their representative, too. This is your opportunity to be heard, to be a voice for the voiceless, and to make a difference concerning human trafficking in Texas. Let’s make Texas hostile territory to traffickers and offer compassionate care for victims.