Human trafficking – Too close for comfort

Assemblymember Marie Waldron
Assemblymember Marie Waldron

Earlier this session I spoke on the Assembly Floor on House Resolution 7 that I jointly wrote with Assembly member Eloise Gómez Reyes, D-San Bernardino. HR 7 declares January Human Trafficking Awareness Month in California, part of a nationwide effort to combat this growing menace.

A form of modern slavery, human trafficking has grown 842% in the United States since 2007. Worldwide, there are over 40 million victims of human trafficking, 75% of the victims are women and girls and 25% are children. Unfortunately, California, with its harbors, coastlines and international border, has one of the highest instances of human trafficking in the nation.

Locally, recent studies indicated that human trafficking is the second-largest underground economy in San Diego County, after drug trafficking, generating over $800 million in profits. San Diego County is one of the 13 worst regions for human trafficking in the country, impacting 8,000 victims per year. Many victims are trafficked by gangs, the average age of entry is 16, and victims are typically trafficked for three years before they come to the attention of law enforcement. Riverside County is also considered a hot spot for human trafficking, and despite its inland location and lack of an international border, has been described as a human trafficking corridor. No place is safe or immune.

This repugnant industry can be defeated, but we need to raise awareness that trafficking is taking place all around us. We must be vigilant and recognize that this scourge impacts our state and our local communities.

HR 7 is a small part of this ongoing battle. With heightened law enforcement, increased awareness, education and vigilance, we can rein in human trafficking and hopefully prevent more shattered lives.

Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron, R-Escondido, represents the 75th Assembly District in the California Legislature, which includes the communities of Bonsall, Escondido, Fallbrook, Hidden Meadows, Pala, Palomar Mountain, Pauma Valley, Rainbow, San Marcos, Temecula, Valley Center and Vista.