A bipartisan package of legislation has been introduced in the Michigan House to fight human trafficking. State Representative Pauline Wendzel tells WSJM News the 23 bill package aims to help victims by clearing their records of crimes they may have committed because they were trafficked and letting them use that as a defense. She says there have been more than 7,000 human trafficking victims identified in the state in the last ten years, which is why reforms are needed.
“A lot of this, I was shocked that we weren’t doing in Michigan already,” Wendzel said. “I’m hoping that this will bring us forward and make us a leader in this realm because this is an issue that a lot of people don’t like to talk about, we don’t like to think about, but it’s a huge, huge issue and, unfortunately, it’s not going away and it’s only getting worse.”
Wendzel says a great deal of testimony was taken this year.
“There were so many people that wanted to come and testify. In fact, I don’t think they got through some of these stories that were just absolutely heartbreaking.”
Wendzel credits state Representative Mary Whiteford of the South Haven area with doing a lot of work on the legislation. Among other things, the bills in the package change references to “prostitution” to “commercial sexual activity” in state law and allow juvenile offenses committed by a young victim of trafficking to be expunged from their criminal record. The legislation is now before the House Judiciary Committee.
Full story at: https://www.wsjm.com/2021/02/13/legislation-aims-to-help-human-trafficking-victims/