TROY (WWJ/AP) - Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has signed legislation aiming to crack down on human trafficking and help its victims.
The 21-bill package signed Thursday lets victims clear their criminal records. Minors suspected of prostitution will be presumed to be victims, and "johns" soliciting sex from minors will face stiffer criminal penalties.
The laws eliminate the statute of limitations for exploiting children and extend it to bring charges against suspected adult traffickers. Those soliciting sex from minors will be added to Michigan's sex offender registry.
"It is unacceptable that a dangerous and appalling practice like human trafficking continues to be a prevalent problem across our state and nation," Snyder said, in a media released. "I'm extremely proud to sign this comprehensive bipartisan bill package, making Michigan one of the leading states in fighting this tragic crime. This effort holds criminals accountable while giving victims the support they need to overcome these horrific experiences."
The laws stem from recommendations made the human trafficking commission, within the Attorney General's Office.
"This victim-centered legislation brings us one step closer to accomplishing the goals we outlined last year with the Commission on Human Trafficking and marks positive progress toward ending modern day-slavery in Michigan," Attorney General Bill Schuette said. "Young women who are forced into modern-day slavery are victims, not criminals. This legislation strengthens victim protections and toughens penalties for traffickers, both key reforms that will help fight human trafficking."
The laws were inspired in part by trafficking victim Theresa Flores, who watched in tears as Snyder signed bills at Walsh College in Troy.
"Thirty-four years ago I was trafficked in Michigan. Even though I was a commodity to men, I felt as if I had no value," Flores said. "When I reached out to the police 28 years ago, I was told they couldn't help me. I thought no one cared. It took me 26 years to realize I was a trafficking survivor. Today, the state of Michigan passes one of the strongest laws against trafficking and I can truly say, they DO care!"
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Advocates say Michigan's anti-trafficking laws are among the toughest in the U.S.
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