Lingle prevents criminalization of human trafficking in Hawaii

Jamie Winpenny

HONOLULU—Among the 32 bills vetoed by Gov. Linda Lingle on Tuesday was Senate Bill 2045, known otherwise as the human trafficking bill. The bill, if enacted, would have criminalized traffickers and consumers of services provided by trafficked individuals. 

“As far as we know, Lingle is the only United States governor to veto a bill that criminalizes traffickers and consumers of trafficked labor,” says Kathryn Xian of the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery.

Asked if she is angry, Xian, an ardent and highly public advocate of trafficked victims’ rights, says: “Yes. But we’re angry at a flaw in the Hawaii Legislature that is antithetical to the principal of democracy.”

Similar bills sponsored by victim advocates have failed to pass the governor’s desk in Hawaii in the past. Xian says that this is due, in large part, to closed door lobbying by high-ranking law enforcement officials from the State Attorney General’s Office, the City Prosecutor’s Office, and the Honolulu Police Department. These powerful lobbies have the influence to change bills to the extent that those who drafted its original version are compelled to lobby against it, she explains.

Senate Bill 2045 was redrafted from its original version by legislators, as Xian states, “as to be egregiously against what any reasonable person would do.”

Xian has affirmed that State Representative Jon Riki Karamatsu, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, stated to her that he would take into concern the comments of governmental opponents of Senate Bill 2045. Karamatsu has since resigned his seat in the Legislature to run for Lieutenant Governor in 2010.

“I’m not surprised,” says Xian of Lingle’s veto. “She is not aware of the problem and we feel that she is unwilling to acknowledge it.” Xian and other proponents of the bill, however, remain committed to and hopeful for the bill’s passage in the future. “We do have allies in all of the governmental offices that have, as yet, opposed this bill.”