To the Editor:
Gov. Terry Branstad recently signed a new law which strengthens current Iowa law with respect to human trafficking. The updated law allows county attorneys to refer a minor arrested for prostitution to the Iowa Department of Human Services as a child in need of assistance and allows for expunging prostitution convictions from minors after two years of good behavior with no other convictions. This law also enhances penalties against people engaged in human trafficking and creates a victim’s fund.
Attacking Trafficking, a Quad-Cities-based ecumenical anti-trafficking organization, would like to thank our local legislators for their diligence and support in getting this bill passed. Our group met with Iowa Senators Rita Hart and Joe Seng late in 2013 to discuss the improvements needed in the current Iowa code. With the assistance of Muscatine attorney Walter Conlon, we discussed the weaknesses in current legislation and ways to improve upon it.
Polaris Project, a major national anti-trafficking group, maintains ratings on all 50 states based on 10 categories of laws that are critical to a basic legal framework that combats human trafficking, punishes traffickers and supports survivors. As of July 31, 2013, 32 states are now rated in Tier 1 (maximum strength) up from 21 states in 2012. Iowa had fallen to a Tier 2 state.
Human trafficking is a crime against the fundamental rights and dignity of the human person. Sadly, it is a $32 billion a year business, second only to the illegal drug trade. We know human trafficking exists in the United States, in Iowa, and within the Quad-Cities. With the support of our local state legislators, our hope is to continue to toughen Iowa laws and put an end to this heinous crime.