HONOLULU—Two bills that help to establish anti-human trafficking laws in Hawaii will be heard in conference by Senate and House committees.
Lawmakers acknowledge that Hawaii is one of only five states without an anti-trafficking statute or adequate legal protection for victims of sex and labor trafficking.
Last year, in one of the largest labor trafficking cases in United States history, Global Horizons Manpower, Inc., a Los Angeles‑based employment contractor allegedly coerced into agricultural work over four hundred Thai nationals, including forty-four farmers who paid recruiters $20,000 each for the chance to work at a local farm. Trafficked workers who were victims of this company were chronically underpaid, forced to live in modified storage containers, and threatened with deportation and other forms of economic damage, after having their passports take by the local farm owners.
While federal law covers labor trafficking, federal law enforcement officers generally will only proceed against traffickers with many victims, and not traffickers with one or two victims.
House Bill 141 was amended to create class A and B felonies for labor trafficking offenses, a nonpayment of wages offense, an unlawful conduct with respect to documents offense, and provisions relating to these new offenses.
To make it easier for local law enforcement to prosecute traffickers, House Bill 240 would afford witnesses in cases involving promoting prostitution the highest priority to receive government security and protection. The bill received supporting testimony from the Attorney General, the Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney, The Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery, and the Downtown Neighborhood Board.
Sen. Clayton Hee (D), chair of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor, addressed the problems of trafficking in his committee report on House Bill 240: “It is incumbent on the State to craft legislation that combats those who benefit most from the prostitution, the traffickers and pimps, while providing protection to victims of traffickers who step forward seeking safety, and addresses the demand for prostitution by assuring that habitual patrons are penalized when they engage in this conduct.”
Hee also described how several bills in combination would “provide a comprehensive way to deal with the complex issue of prostitution within a single vehicle.” While House Bill 240 addresses the protection of victims of traffickers who step forward, House Bill 241, H.D. 1, increases penalties for the offenses of promoting prostitution in order to deter traffickers and pimps. House Bill 242, H.D. 1, addresses habitual patrons of prostitutes, thereby decreasing demand for these services.
House Bill 240 and House Bill 141 will be heard in conference by the House Committee on Judiciary and the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor. In conference, where Senate and House committees discuss their disagreements on amendments to the bills in order to try to reach an agreed draft, there will be no public testimony.
The Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery is urging supporters of anti-trafficking laws to call House Judiciary Committee chair Rep. Gil Keith-Agaran and Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee chair Hee to voice support for the current versions of House Bill 240 and House Bill 141 before April 27.
Rep. Gil Keith-Agaran
Chair of the House Judiciary Committee
Hawaii State Capitol, Room 302
Sen. Clayton Hee
Chair of the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee
Hawaii State Capitol, Room 407