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Top News Senators welcome Hope for Justice support for Trafficking Survivors Relief Act

Senators welcome Hope for Justice support for Trafficking Survivors Relief Act

Hope for Justice has warmly welcomed the introduction into the Senate of the Trafficking Survivors Relief Act and we are proud to be quoted prominently by Senators Gillibrand and Rubio in their news release accompanying today’s legislative step forward.

This law would mean survivors of human trafficking could have non-violent criminal convictions or arrest records vacated and expunged if they resulted from having been a trafficking victim. The Bill was introduced to the House in January 2024, and we urge both the House and the Senate to swiftly consider and pass this important legislation.

Today, U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) announced the introduction of the Trafficking Survivors Relief Act, bipartisan legislation that would provide relief to survivors of human trafficking who committed a non-violent offense as a direct result of having been a victim of trafficking.

Survivors of human trafficking are commonly charged with crimes, including conspiracy, prostitution, and drug trafficking, that they have been coerced into or forced to commit by their captors. These charges hurt a survivor’s ability to start a new life and find employment and housing, leaving them vulnerable to further exploitation. Under the Trafficking Survivors Relief Act, survivors of human trafficking could have non-violent criminal convictions or arrest records that resulted from having been a trafficking victim vacated and expunged.

“It is absurd for trafficking victims to be charged with crimes they were forced under extreme duress to commit,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This bill would help ensure that after escaping the horrors of human trafficking, victims do not also have to deal with criminal prosecution, imprisonment, and subsequent problems finding employment and housing. It will stop a vicious cycle that leaves survivors vulnerable to further exploitation. Congress has a responsibility to pass the Trafficking Survivors Relief Act and help survivors rebuild their lives with a fresh start. I am proud to be introducing this critical legislation and am fighting hard to get it passed.”

“We can uplift and provide relief to survivors by setting a new federal precedent that would allow them to live a life free from the repercussions of previous offenses incurred through coerced abuse. This important legislation would grant many survivors the opportunity to contribute positively to their communities,” said Senator Rubio.

“The Trafficking Survivors Relief Act provides critical recourse for survivors to be able to thrive in society while they heal and recover from the trauma of trafficking.  To prevent re-trafficking, we have to address all vulnerabilities. This includes addressing survivors’ criminal records that prevent them from securing stable housing and employment, particularly when those crimes were likely a result of force or coercion from their trafficker. Among the other key elements of this bill, this alone will change the landscape for survivors in recovery and increase safe and stable opportunities. Hope for Justice is pleased to continue our support of the Trafficking Survivors Relief Act.” – Sarah Butler, US Programs Director, Hope for Justice

“Psychological chains are much stronger than physical ones. Survivors are not committing crimes of their own free will and volition. These non-violent crimes are committed under the constant force, fraud, duress and coercion of traffickers. Trafficking survivors should not be held responsible for the crimes of their traffickers. TSRA will provide recourse and a vehicle for vacatur for victims who have been unjustly prosecuted for non-violent crimes. The passage of this federal bill would bring federal procedure into alignment with state procedures which already provide for this relief for state criminal convictions. This opportunity for a fresh and fair start will provide salvation for so many survivors.” – Hollie Nadel, Survivor Leader

“The Trafficking Victims Relief Act of 2024 is a much-needed response to the far too common injustice faced by trafficking survivors who are criminalized under federal law as a result of their own trafficking victimization. Unjustly burdening survivors with a criminal record creates barriers to housing, education and other critical needs, and inhibits long term healing, potentially leading to re-exploitation. Shared Hope commends the leadership of Senators Gillibrand and Rubio in championing this critical legislation to address the unjust criminalization of federally prosecuted trafficking survivors.” – Christine Raino, Senior Director of Public Policy, Shared Hope International

“As a survivor and advocate for sex trafficking victims, I passionately advocate for federal vacatur, a crucial bill that empowers survivors to overcome their past and build a brighter future with opportunities for employment, stable housing, and family connections. This bill acknowledges the coercion we faced and offers a path to erase the stigma of our victimization. I strongly support the Trafficking Survivor’s Relief Act of 2024, a significant stride towards healing and demonstrating true support for survivors.” – Sheena Dume, Sr. Public Policy Associate, PACT (Protect All Children From Trafficking)

The Trafficking Survivors Relief Act would also:

  • Allow for an individual’s status as a victim of trafficking to be a mitigating factor for courts to consider when imposing a prison sentence for violent crimes.
  • Require U.S. Attorneys to submit a report one year after enactment detailing the number of motions filed under the law.
  • Ensure that grant funding provided by the Office for Victims of Crime and the Office on Violence Against Women can be used for legal representation for post-conviction relief activities.
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