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Model Anti-Trafficking Legislation

Earlier this month, Suzanne Tomatore, Project Director of the City Bar Justice Center’s Immigrant Women & Children Project, attended a drafting committee meeting of the Uniform Law Commission (ULC).

Established in 1892, the ULC provides states with nonpartisan draft legislation designed to provide clarity and stability to critical areas of state statutory law. The open drafting process draws on the expertise of commissioners appointed by the states, and it also utilizes input from legal experts, advisers and observers representing the views of other legal organizations and interested groups.

Ms. Tomatore had been invited by the commission along with other experts in the field to observe a ULC committee that is working on model state anti-human trafficking legislation, which had been proposed last year by the ULC, and to participate in the process. The scope of the project is specifically focused on (a) human trafficking for sexual purposes, in which a sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform a sex act has not attained the age of majority, and (b) human trafficking in which force, fraud or coercion is used to obtain the labor or services of an individual under circumstances that amount to involuntary servitude.

Currently, 41 states in the U.S. have human trafficking laws. However, the quality and comprehensiveness vary from state to state. New York has one of the nation’s more comprehensive laws, which includes prosecution tools and victim benefits components, and which was recently further strengthened by a new law that allows victims of sex trafficking to vacate prior convictions if they can show they were trafficked into such criminal acts. Other states have little or no protections for victims.

The ‘reporter’ for the project is Professor Susan Deller Ross of Georgetown University Law Center, who is also the director of the International Women’s Human Rights Clinic there, where she has been working closely with her clinic students on this project. The committee members, observers, and advisers had a review period of some three weeks before attending the recent two-day meeting in New Orleans.

“The draft prepared for the committee was very comprehensive, and the work by Professor Ross and her students was a strong first step toward developing this important legislation,” said Tomatore, who, along with other commissioners, observers and advisers, was offered the opportunity to give line-by-line feedback on the 34-page document. “It draws from current state laws, model legislation drafted by other groups, and suggestions from prosecutors and victims’ advocates, and it includes many benefits for trafficking victims,” she said.

The committee will meet again in San Antonio in February to review the next draft, and next July at the annual meeting of the ULC. The overall process should take two years, after which the document will be released to the states for their consideration as uniform legislation to assist in the prosecution of offenders and improve the treatment of our nation’s trafficking victims.

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