Legislation Would Make it Illegal to Force Servitude, Prostitution for Immigration
TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Nia H. Gill which will create the crime of human trafficking and impose prison penalties of up to 20 years on violators of the law, was signed yesterday by acting Governor Codey.
“Today, oppressed women and children, seeking only the American Dream, are given the protection they need from exploitation by human traffickers,” said Senator Gill, D-Essex and Passaic. “For too long, this State has turned a blind eye to the plight of immigrated citizens, forced to work in demeaning and dehumanizing conditions in order to pay back the costs of their immigration. With today’s bill signing, we are sending a strong message that slavery, in whatever form it may rear its ugly head, will not be tolerated.”
The bill will impose a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $200,000 for those convicted of human trafficking with the mandatory 20 year term for those who profit from trafficking minors. In addition, the bill would amend New Jersey’s racketeering statute to include human trafficking and involuntary servitude in the list of offenses that are considered racketeering activity and will also set a mandatory minimum prison term of 20 years for anyone convicted of profiting from the involuntary servitude or prostitution of minors.
Under the new law, the human trafficking offense includes threats of bodily harm against anyone who is kept in a workplace against his or her will or leading people to believe they would be harmed if they attempt to leave a particular workplace.
“In America, in this day and age, we would never tolerate the forced servitude of our citizens, but for so many seeking asylum from war or a chance to build a better life, we simply ignore it,” said Senator Gill. “In New Jersey, we now have a powerful tool on the books to discourage those who would take advantage of our immigrants, and to rid the State of the insidious practices of human trafficking.”
Senator Gill added that often, when immigrants overstay their legal visa periods, they are held captive with threats of being turned over to authorities.
“Human trafficking is often linked to organized crime, and promotes the objectification of human life as nothing more than chattel,” said Senator Gill. “In our country’s most sacred documents, we hold certain liberties as ‘self-evident,’ and that fact has been affirmed time and time again by the blood of our forefathers. We must demand the same liberties for those living within our borders, whether they are naturalized American citizens or not.”
Senator Gill added that the legislation is necessary because official government agencies have downplayed the prevalence of human trafficking, because it often involves illegal immigrants and others who normally are not served by the normal judicial system in the United States.
Senator Gill’s bill was approved by both houses of the Legislature in March, with a vote of 39-0 in the Senate, and 76-0 in the Assembly.