SAN ANTONIO, Nov. 22 (UPI) -- Texas is considering a bill that would increase penalties for human trafficking and make it easier to investigate and prosecute the crime, state lawmakers say.
A measure introduced by state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, a Democrat from San Antonio, would require convicted traffickers to serve at least half their sentence before being eligible for parole, increase the minimum sentence for repeat offenders to 25 years and give police new tools for investigating human trafficking, the San Antonio Express-News reported Monday.
One of those tools, Van de Putte said, is a change in the law that would allow law enforcement to detain child victims, enabling police to seek help for the victims and continue their investigation.
"It's modern-day slavery," Van de Putte said. "And the big emphasis is right now if you rescue a teenager and they're a runaway you can't just send them back" to the home they ran away from.
A report submitted to the state Legislature in 2009 said almost 20 percent of the 800,000 trafficking victims in the U.S. travel through Texas.
Trafficking victims are usually immigrants lured into the country under false promises of employment, They are coerced into performing labor and some are forced to become prostitutes, said Chris Burchell, president of the advocacy group Texas Anti-Trafficking in Persons.