LANSING (AP) - School administrators, nurses or other professionals who report reasonable suspicion of human trafficking would be immune from civil lawsuits under a series of new bills introduced Thursday in the Michigan Legislature.
The bipartisan bills - the latest in proposed anti-human trafficking measures - also would require proof that state Human Services workers have visited the foster homes they're assigned to and that the children were physically present at the time. The measures would also classify a foster child who has run away as a missing person.
"The point is to ensure that those with the greatest opportunity to become aware of human trafficking activities do not have a disincentive to report their suspicions," said Judy Emmons, chair of the Senate Families, Seniors and Human Services Committee. "Sadly, many times foster children go missing and no one is looking for them. This is because under current law they are not classified as a missing person."
Emmons, a Republican from Sheridan, and other sponsors of the bills are planning a statewide tour over the next several months.
In December, the Michigan House voted to give legal protection to teen prostitutes. That bill would require that when people under age 18 are charged with prostitution, it would be presumed they were coerced into it. They also would be subject to temporary protective custody, and police would have to immediately report a suspected human trafficking violation to state social workers.
That legislation is based on a recommendation from the state's first human trafficking commission to create a "safe harbor" provision for minors.
"When the commission was created our goal was to attack this horrible crime in the most aggressive and efficient manner possible," state Rep. Kurt Heise said Thursday in a release. "We are serious about attacking this problem, and we are committed to a victim-centered approach. This is about making Michigan safer and doing everything we can to save children and vulnerable adults."
Heise, a Republican from Plymouth, is chair of the House Criminal Justice Committee and co-chair of the Michigan Advisory Commission on Human Trafficking.
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