FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 14, 2014
(Rep. Longoria) Michelle Villarreal, 512-463-0645
LA JOYA, TX — As part of the continued efforts of the State of Texas to combat human trafficking, State Representative Oscar Longoria will host the appointed Joint Interim Committee To Study Human Trafficking for a hearing in the Rio Grande Valley on Thursday, July 24, 2014 at 10 a.m. at the Nellie Schunior Central Administration Building, 201 W. Expressway 83, La Joya, Texas 78560.
The Committee will hear testimony on ways to further combat human trafficking along the Texas border and region; and discuss services available to victims.
"Human trafficking has been a very serious issue in Texas for decades," said State Rep. Oscar Longoria, District 35. "We have seen this issue increase throughout the years, especially here in the South Texas border, where we have experienced an overwhelming number of immigrants crossing from Mexico into the United States within the last three years. The thousands of men, women, and children who make the journey to cross through our border are subject to, and in many cases have become victims of human trafficking," stated Longoria.
Testimony will be open to the public. It is expected that various local leaders, legislators, organizations, and law enforcement officials will testify before the committee. This is the first time the committee holds a human trafficking hearing in the Rio Grande Valley.
Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa whose district covers most of the Rio Grande Valley and Corpus Christi is planning to attend the committee hearing.
"Human trafficking is a growing problem, not only along the border but world-wide, that subjects women and children into modern day slavery," stated Hinojosa. "We need to provide our law-enforcement community with the necessary tools to crack down on human traffickers."
Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., whose senate district includes Cameron, Willacy, and part of Hidalgo County in the Rio Grande Valley, will also be in attendance.
"I am grateful to the committee chairs and Rep. Longoria for extending an invitation to join them as they are briefed on important human trafficking concerns relevant to the Rio Grande Valley, especially in light of the recent influx of Central American migrants to the region.
The more than 50,000 souls who arrived at the border, young children in particular, were certainly vulnerable to mistreatment on their journey. It is imperative that our state agencies, medical professionals, and educators have the necessary systems in place to identify victims of trafficking," Sen. Lucio said. "Last legislative session, through creation of this committee and through passage of several bills intended to curb the evil of human trafficking, lawmakers overwhelmingly endorsed a view that all trafficking victims deserve appropriate protections of law. At this hearing, we'll ensure our state is honoring that commitment in the face of an unprecedented crisis at our border."
The committee, established during the 2011 legislative session and renewed by the Legislature last year, is delegated the task of studying the problem of human trafficking. It is charged with continuing its previous work by studying ways to combat the crime of human trafficking and identifying services available to victims.
"This hearing will allow South Texas residents to play an important role in addressing the very serious crime of human trafficking," said Joe Straus, Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives. "The work that Representative Longoria and his colleagues are doing now will provide valuable guidance when the full Legislature takes up this issue in next year's legislative session."
An estimated 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States each year, and the number of U.S. citizens trafficked within the country is estimated to be even higher. Given its size and proximity to a major international border, Texas is often a focal point for human trafficking activity.
"I thank my colleague, Representative Longoria, for inviting us to his district. It has been my passion the past few sessions to adopt the harshest punishments against the pimps and the persons responsible for carrying out these modern day slavery acts against mankind," said Representative Senfronia Thompson, District 141. "We will continue the fight to combat this heinous crime and put an end to it, now more than ever!"
Rep. Thompson and Senator Joan Huffman of Houston Co-Chair the committee, which also include Reps. Todd Hunter, Debbie Riddle, Roberto Alonzo, Joe Moody, Tan Parker, James White, Toni Rose, Paul Workman, Allen Fletcher, and Rep. Longoria. Senators on the committee include, Brian Birdwell, Donna Campbell, Craig Estes, Jane Nelson, Leticia Van de Putte, and John Whitmire.
"With the increase in unaccompanied minors crossing our southern border, I am deeply concerned about the potential that exists for these children to be exploited by the commercial sex trade industry," said Senator Joan Huffman. "At our hearing in La Joya, we will listen to testimony from experts and law enforcement officials to gain greater insight into this troubling situation."
The committee hearing is open to the public and to the media. For additional information or assistance, please contact Representative Longoria's Office at (956) 580-6944.
|EVENT:||Joint Interim Committee Hearing to Study Human Trafficking|
|DATE:||Thursday, July 24, 2014|
Nellie Schunior Central Administration Building
201 W. Expressway 83
La Joya, Texas 78560