Have you seen the recent video of Ashton Kutcher speaking at a Senate hearing? For many who only know him as the star of That’s 70s Show or Punk’d, seeing him speaking in a serious tone before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee may seem a little strange.
However, it only takes a few minutes watching the video to know Kutcher is dedicated to a real life issue that tragically impacts hundreds of thousands of lives each year. That issue is human sex trafficking.
Why was Kutcher testifying before that Senate hearing?
Because he’s the co-founder of Thorn, a task force of companies that use technology to fight human trafficking, and Thorn needs more money to continue its work. In other words, he was testifying at the Senate hearing to ask lawmakers to fund the work Thorn and similar companies are doing to end slavery around the world.
The Kutcher video was shared on Facebook and through other forms of social media, partially due to the actor’s fame, and also because his testimony was so riveting. Many people who watched the video likely had an immediate desire to join Kutcher’s fight against human sex trafficking.
If you are one of them, there’s something you need to know. While trying to stop human sex trafficking may seem like a no-brainer issue for lawmakers to get behind, the reality is that Thorn’s fight for funding faces an uphill battle. Simply put, the chances that Thorn will get the money it needs are slim.
Case-in point? Right here in Texas.
Texas Lawmakers Silent on Providing Funding For Fighting Human Trafficking
Attorney General Ken Paxton has called human sex trafficking “one of the most heinous crimes facing our society,” and Governor Greg Abbott made fighting human sex trafficking one of the top 10 issues of his gubernatorial campaign. However, both leaders have been strangely silent when pressed by media outlets about funding the fight against sex trafficking. In fact, Texas lawmakers in general have remained silent on allocating funding for anti-sex trafficking initiatives.
Combatting human sex trafficking is not only difficult but expensive. The costs associated with both the detection and prosecution of human sex traffickers are enormous, but there are also the collateral costs associated with providing support to the victims of these criminal enterprises, especially if they are minor children.
When the Department of Child and Family Services asked for $1 billion to make improvements to the state’s child welfare system (which is very closely related to the welfare of children before and after becoming victims of human sex trafficking), lawmakers refused. They ended up allocating $325 million to the child welfare system – less than a third of what the Department needed to make “basic improvements.”
Texas is not the only state struggling to find the funds to fight human trafficking. North Dakota, which received a one-time grant of $1.25 million in 2015, is fighting to make funding an annual or recurring part of its state budget.
Additionally, many cities like Seattle are losing federal funding due to their status as a “sanctuary city” – funding that has otherwise gone to initiatives like human trafficking task forces.
Still, it must be noted that Texas is a top fighter against human trafficking. Lawmakers have made significant contributions in the fight against human sex trafficking in this state.
However, those contributions are mostly tied to enacting harsher penalties for those convicted of human sex trafficking offenses. While these measures serve legitimate penal purposes, they do little to help rehabilitate victims or provide children with the assistance they need in recovering from the tragic effects of trafficking.
In some cases, the pressure to crack down against human sex traffickers can even lead to overzealous policing and exceedingly harsh charges and penalties. This can result in unfounded or inappropriate charges.
Accused or charged with human trafficking? Protect your rights and your future by reaching out to a knowledgeable federal defense lawyer immediately.