The lower chamber of the California legislature has blocked a bipartisan bill that would increase the charges associated with human trafficking.
“The Golden State lower house committee considered Senate Bill 14, which would make the human trafficking of children a ‘serious felony.’ Serious felony charges under California law currently include murder, rape, and any other crime which may incur the death penalty or life sentence in state prison.
However, instead of upping the ante on child traffickers, the California Assembly Public Safety Committee nuked the measure on Tuesday,” writes Fox News.
JUST IN: The Assembly Public Safety Committee blocks SB 14, which would have made human trafficking of a minor a serious felony in California.
"HORRIBLE" was yelled at the dais as victim sobs.
The bill had cleared the Senate with bipartisan support. https://t.co/2xIsoV7vhi
— Ashley Zavala (@ZavalaA) July 11, 2023
No Democrats were willing to vote on the bill. The one yes came from Republican Assemblyman Tom Lackey, the other Republican, Assemblyman Juan Alanis, was not in the room.
The bill was granted reconsideration, meaning it could pick back up again next year.
— Ashley Zavala (@ZavalaA) July 11, 2023
On July 4th, the sponsor of the bill explained why it was needed. Shannon Grove, a representative from the 12th Senate District, which encompasses large portions of Fresno, Kern, and Tulare Counties, wrote:
According to California’s Attorney General Rob Bonta: “Human trafficking is among the world’s fastest growing criminal enterprises. … It is a form of modern day slavery that profits from the exploitation of our most vulnerable populations.”
Given the knowledge of what trafficking does to a person, how can anyone consider it a non-serious crime? I can’t. It breaks my heart to know such horrific exploitation is occurring, which is why I introduced Senate Bill 14, to raise the consequences for traffickers who sell minor children for sex. The realities faced by those who are trafficked are harsh, yet the penalties for those doing the trafficking are not nearly harsh enough.
Senator Bradford’s (D-Gardena) “Ebony Alert” bill highlights the fact that in California, Black women and girls are at increased risk of being trafficked, and they go “missing” in disproportionately high numbers. One study found that 71% of children recovered from sex trafficking were Black. Data from the 2020 census shows that while people who are Black make up 13.4% of the nation’s population, nearly 40% of missing persons are people of color. Black children make up about 38% of all missing child cases. Together, Senator Bradford’s SB 673 “Ebony Alert” bill and SB 14 are two critical pieces of legislation that can help address the number of “missing” Black women and children in California.
Traffickers exploit children as young as 11 and 12, forcing them to sell their bodies for the trafficker’s financial gain. They use physical violence and coercion–death threats, threats to harm the victim’s family, food deprivation, physical beatings, rape, and burning–to force their victims to have sex with upwards of 15 strangers a day. Sadly, minors can also be lured into sex trafficking under the guise of a loving relationship.
SB 14 has earned significant support from various community organizations, including 3Strands Global Foundation, National Center on Sexual Exploitations, Crime Victims United, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and several county district attorneys.
Sex traffickers don’t fear the current law because consequences are minimal. We must do more to protect women and children by making traffickers fear the consequences of preying on the vulnerable.
Reporters claimed that gasps were heard in the room when the Democrats on the committee killed the bill while a victim of sex trafficking sobbed in the background.
“You know you’re on the wrong side of an issue when you deliver a win for human traffickers. Democrats on the Public Safety Committee proved they have no intention of protecting the lives of Californians, let alone protecting innocent children from the horrors of human trafficking,” California GOP chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson told Fox News.
“What we saw today from California Democrats was heartless and disgusting,” Patterson continued.
“Once again, Democrats are looking out for the most vicious criminals at the expense of victims,” California Assembly Republican leader James Gallagher also said.
“Any normal person would tell you that human trafficking a minor is a serious crime, but Democrats would rather enable these monsters than hold them accountable,” Gallagher added.
The killing of the bill comes at a strange moment in our culture that shows a divide between the media, and their allies in politics, and regular Americans when it comes to human trafficking.
Writing in The Spectator, Stephen L. Miller explains: “A small studio-produced film managed to best a big-budget iconic action hero franchise from Disney on the July 4 box office. You would think that would make for the media an interesting story, both with the success of that small film and the failure of the iconic Indiana Jones franchise. But that is not the tale being told about Angel Studios’ Sound of Freedom, an action-thriller dramatization of the life and career of Tim Ballard, the former DHS agent who founded the OUR (Operation Underground Railroad), an organization dedicated to fighting child trafficking globally.
Sound of Freedom has largely been a crowdsourced word-of-mouth success. Our national media has therefore decided to make it their latest target in their attempt to paint all things successful out of their purview as another right-wing moral panic and conspiracy, honing in on the film and the film’s star Jim Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ, The Thin Red Line). Suddenly, to the national media and outlets such as CNN and the Washington Post, the personal politics of a film’s star matter and affect the topic of the film he happens to act in.
The Guardian, Rolling Stone, CNN and The Post have all branded Sound of Freedom a QAnon conspiracy-adjacent film because the movie concerns child trafficking and its star has expressed sympathies for the fringe online group. CNN has accused the film of stoking a moral panic around child trafficking. Rolling Stone labeled the film a “QAnon-tinged thriller about child-trafficking… designed to appeal to the conscience of a conspiracy-addled boomer.
The media is committing a rhetorical trick and logical fallacy by linking all child trafficking to one vague if well-known online conspiracy. ‘QAnon believes children are abducted for weird spirit cooking rituals and therefore all child trafficking is a conspiracy theory.’ On CNN, a guest said that ‘these films are created out of moral panics… it specifically is looking at QAnon concepts of these child trafficking rings.’ These segments seem to exist solely due to the personal politics of the lead actor.”
Miller notes that when Tom Cruise has huge blockbusters, like last year’s Top Gun: Maverick or this year’s latest installment of the Mission Impossible series, no one in the media talks about what Scientologists believe. It’s curious that they’d all of a sudden have a problem with a movie showing something as horrible as child tracking as anything other than horrible.
The Sound of Freedom has been called a “surprise box office hit” and, according to Variety, “opened last Tuesday, generating a mighty $14.2 million on the Independence Day holiday. The film picked up another $18.2 million between Friday and Sunday, enough to place third on domestic box office charts behind Insidious: The Red Door ($32.6 million) and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny ($26.5 million). It’s playing in 2,850 North American theaters, a smaller footprint than Insidious and Indiana Jones (3,188 theaters and 4,600 theaters, respectively).”