| 03.19.2018

Stop signs on human trafficking

Governor passes bill that allows posting information for human trafficking victims

BOISE — The “VETO” stamp hovered above H.B. 183 for a long moment, and right before Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter went to reject the bill allowing nonprofits to post signs that assist human trafficking victims, he pulled back.

He tricked the bill’s sponsors — it was April Fool’s Day, after all. The bill was signed into law soon after.

The bill arrived on the back of Rep. Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay, who said he was contacted by Savannah Hicks, a resident in his district and founder of Slavery Prevention and Revealing Corruption (SPARC), a non-profit organization.

Dixon said besides being called into action by Hicks, who drafted the bill, he had also been contacted by trafficking victims in Idaho.

“This is actually happening here and it’s happening to our children,” Dixon said. “It is still something that is somewhat in the shadows, and I received an email from a young lady in Eastern Idaho that was a victim of trafficking. She was a student that was very accomplished in high school, went out and got a job and got a boyfriend that ended up initiating her into human trafficking.”

The law defines human trafficking as “the illegal movement of people typically for the purposes of forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation.”

As per the new law, nonprofit groups such as SPARC now have the ability to post signs with emergency phone numbers for victims or witnesses of human trafficking at rest stops off state and interstate highways. These organizations are responsible for all costs attributed to posting the signs, so there is no impact to the General Fund.

According to the law’s text, signs include telephone numbers to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center and the Idaho State Office of Crime Victims Advocacy, both toll-free and open 24/7.

Hicks said if the bill was not passed into law, she would have had to clear posting the signs on rest stops with each county individually. Prior to Otter signing the bill, she said there was only one rest stop in the southern part of the state that had a sign posted for victims of human trafficking.

“They will come through Washington or Oregon and be transferred through our state,” Dixon said. “They have seen a lot coming from the west coast, through (to) the oil fields, unfortunately.”

Dixon said victims were also coming down across the Canadian border.

Another bill to assist human trafficking victims, S.B. 1103, would give victims the ability to have their record cleaned of offenses committed while they were in the service of human traffickers. However, since the bill was printed and referred to the Senate Judiciary Rules committee March 20, it has not received a hearing.

George Wood Jr. can be reached at arg-news@uidaho.edu

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