Gopika, Maguire Fellow in Austin and London

Gopika is a senior majoring in economics and political science in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. She was awarded a Maguire and Irby Family Foundation Public Service Fellowship for summer 2014 from the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility at SMU. She has internships with Refugee Services of Texas in Austin and Stop the Traffik in London.

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The long route to fight human trafficking

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Kaye Woodard-Hotz and I at the Texas Attorney General’s Office.

Before I head off to London, I had to make a stop at the Texas House of Representatives and Texas Attorney General’s Office in Austin. Human trafficking has had its long history in Texas, but what we are doing to fight against it can only be seen and answered by legislation in our state. I had the opportunity to meet with Kaye Woodard-Hotz, manager of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Crisis Services program and Crime Victims Services Policy and Planning in the Crime Victim Services Division of the Texas Attorney General’s Office.

Ms. Woodard-Hotz has worked on fighting human trafficking for many years now. She is one of the few people who have gotten to see the drastic change in policy for anti-trafficking over the last several years.

Through our meeting, I learned how Texas has had a history of human trafficking along the Interstate Highway 10 Corridor that runs across Texas from Houston to El Paso. We talked about how human trafficking, though prevalent in Texas, was not always a primary concern for state legislation until around 2003.

Around 2003 was when the Texas House of Representatives and Texas Senate started recognizing human trafficking as a major issue. There were a few who initiated the change and push for a bill to help prosecutors better investigate and prosecute cases that may involve human trafficking. Two key people in getting legislation started were Representative Senfronia Thompson and Senator Leticia Van de Putte.

I also had the opportunity to sit down and discuss legislation with Amber Hausenfluck, Deputy Legislative Director for Senator Van de Putte’s office. Senator Van de Putte’s district consists of a major city along the I-10 corridor, San Antonio, which has seen significant change since the changes in legislation for cases in the area.

While aftercare is important for survivors of trafficking, it is important for legislation to be passed and enforced as well. We can do everything in our power to help survivors, but when we make it law, it can be enforced by all cities in the state of Texas. In 2003, the first law was passed that criminalized human trafficking in Texas. Since then, we have come a long way. Almost fifteen different pieces of legislation have been brought to the Texas Congress to help fight against human trafficking in the last ten years.

With the recent influx of migrants from Mexico, the new concern with human trafficking as well as human smuggling is now posed in the Rio Grande Valley area. Members of the Texas Congress have a scheduled a hearing with the people of the area to hear about the situation and address any pressing issues. Similar to San Antonio, Houston is a major city of concern for human trafficking as it lies on the I-10 corridor, but is also a port of entry from the sea as well. This is more of a reason to take action and spread awareness to the people of Texas.

We have taken a long route in our fight against human trafficking, but I-10 is 2,500 miles long, and we have plenty to go. We should continue to spread awareness and push forward, and learn from what other countries have to offer on this matter. It’s a global issue that we all need to solve. So for my last stop, I will be heading to London to work with Stop the Traffik!

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