TRENTON – The Senate today gave final approval to a measure, sponsored in the Senate by Senator Nia H. Gill, to compensate victims of human trafficking and to punish their oppressors with prison terms of up to 20 years.
“We are acting today on behalf of the thousands women and children who are forced into oppressive acts of sexual slavery and subhuman working conditions and held for years against their will,” said Senator Gill, D-Essex and Passaic.
The bill, A-2730/S-1848, passed 39-0 and now goes to the Governor.
The Senate Democrat said the new human trafficking statute would set a mandatory minimum prison term of 20 years for anyone convicted of profiting from the involuntary servitude or prostitution of minors.
Under the proposal, the human trafficking offense would include 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 attempts to escape the poverty and oppression of Third World countries, women and children are being lured to this country through organized criminal activities which debase human dignity,” Senator Gill said. “Human trafficking is the 21st Century’s version of the slavery this country fought a war to end nearly 150 years ago.”
The bill would 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 the New Jersey’s racketeering statute to include human trafficking and involuntary servitude in the list of offenses that are considered racketeering activity.
“Involuntary servitude takes advantage of language barriers in this country, lack of education and other means of oppression to de-humanize and to hold captive those who come to this country on promises of new lives,” Senator Gill said.
When victims overstay their legal visa periods, they are often held captive with threats of being turned over to immigration authorities, Senator Gill said.
“Human trafficking promotes social breakdown, fuels organized crime, undermines public health and subverts government authority,” Senator Gill said.
“Fundamentally, human trafficking violates the universal human right to life, liberty and freedom from slavery in all its forms,” she said. “Trafficking of children undermines the basic need of a child to grow up in a protective environment and the right to be free from sexual abuse and exploitation.”
Senator Gill said the legislation is “desperately needed” because official government agencies have downplayed the prevalence of human trafficking because it often involves illegal immigrants and others who cannot rely on the normal justice system in the United States.