Alabama passes first anti-human trafficking law

House Bill 432, Alabama’s first anti-human trafficking legislation, passed in both houses of the Alabama State Legislature merely hours before the 2010 legislative session ended on Thursday, April 22. The bill, which provides extensive protection for victims of labor and sex trade, will add Alabama to the list of 44 states that have strictly criminalized human trafficking under state law, according to the Polaris project.

The passage of the bill will create new human trafficking crimes and penalties, provide mandatory restitution for victims, allow victims to sue their traffickers and provide for asset forfeiture.

Along with the Polaris Project and the DA’s Association, local anti-human trafficking coalition Freedom to Thrive helped draft the bill and said that anti-human trafficking legislation has been a long time coming for Alabama. Supporters of the bill say that a state law will now lead to more prosecutions of what is considered modern-day slavery.

“It’s a huge victory,” Sara Jane Camacho, director of Freedom to Thrive, said. “Having legislation on the books is really the starting point for educating law enforcement and the community about human trafficking.”

After a tangible encounter with child sex slaves in Thailand at age 16, Camacho returned to Birmingham “ticked off” that people were not aware of young children enslaved for labor or sex abroad and in Birmingham, she said. In 2009, Camacho helped form Freedom to Thrive, which was created as a response to the growing prevalence of human trafficking in the southeast and in Birmingham.

According to the Birmingham News, a lawsuit filed in Birmingham federal court in 2009 claims that a Mississippi man paid inadequate wages to two male Guatemalan guest workers for work in Mississippi and Alabama, forced them into debt, confiscated their visas and threatened to report them to immigration officials.

In addition, a federal grand jury in Birmingham indicted a man from Florence, Ala., in December for harboring a female minor in Lauderdale County and forcing her to perform sex acts for payment.