In her own words:

Human Trafficking           Every year as many as two million people are bought and sold worldwide as prostitutes, domestic workers, sex slaves, child laborers, and child soldiers.  Just this week, a child prostitution ring involving foster kids in state care was busted in Miami. As an appointed member of the Florida Statewide Human Trafficking Task Force, I remain committed to eliminating these kinds of crimes.

I supported two bills signed into law this month which aim to combat human trafficking in Florida; among the top three states in the country for human trafficking.  House Bill 7049, which I co-sponsored, toughens penalties for human trafficking and provides the Office of Statewide Prosecution jurisdiction to pursue these cases.

The other measure, The Florida Safe Harbor Act, increases penalties for those who solicit prostitutes from $500 to $5000.  The law also allows law enforcement to process victims of human trafficking through safe houses instead of through the criminal justice system.

Protecting children from being exploited by this industry should be our main focus.  These new laws are a significant step towards helping the victims of human trafficking and cracking down on those who are responsible for committing these atrocious crimes.  Florida should never be a haven for those who want to hurt children!

Speaking on the impact of human trafficking in Berlin, Germany

Speaking on the impact of human trafficking in Berlin, Germany

Although human trafficking impacts many different people, 80 percent of victims are women and more than half are children.

As the Miami Herald just reported, a child brothel was busted by police and prosecutors in Miami-Dade County.  The most startling part of this horrific story is the alleged involvement of a state child abuse investigator employed by the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF).

According to the Miami Herald report, State employee Jean LaCroix has been placed on administrative leave from DCF as prosecutors investigate allegations that he had sex with a teenage girl who was among the foster children he was assigned to protect.  Four other men have been charged with recruiting, from a state-operated group home, foster children to be sex slaves.

I commend police and prosecutors for their efforts to get these child predators off the streets, but was outraged by the allegations.  It is outrageous to think that these children who were supposed to be protected, could be exploited by a state employee the way they allegedly have been and for so long.  This shows that no one was looking out for the safety of these children.

It’s clear Florida needs renewed efforts to eliminate human trafficking.  Amid the news of this latest prostitution ring, I have already held a conference call with Katherine Fernandez Rundle, the State Attorney for Miami-Dade County, about how to address the issue of human trafficking.  In addition, I plan to convene a summit on the issue.

With Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle at an anti-crime symposium.

With Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle at an anti-crime symposium.

In 2009, I was appointed by the Governor to the Statewide Human Trafficking Task Force, a 19-member panel created to evaluate the problem of human trafficking and to recommend strategies for eliminating the unlawful trafficking of men, women and children into Florida.

 Discussing strategies to protect children with my Blue Ribbon Committee on Human Trafficking.

Discussing strategies to protect children with my Blue Ribbon Committee on Human Trafficking.

As part of constituent outreach, I formed a Blue Ribbon Committee on human trafficking.  The committee is made up of local constituents who meet monthly and explore ways to combat human trafficking.