Georgia appears to be redoubling its efforts to end the scourge of human trafficking, at least in our state.
It is a worthy, noble and unfortunately desperately needed push.
Two new bills that have Gov. Brian Kemp's backing are making their way through the General Assembly. One, House Bill 178, would make it easier for human trafficking victims to change their names and another, HB 177, would allow victims or state officials to file for monetary damages against traffickers.
Under HB 178, trafficking victims could change their names without having to make an advertisement in the county's legal organ, i.e., newspaper. HB 177 would enable victims to sue those who knowingly benefited from trafficking for up to 10 years after the incident or up to 10 years after the victim turned 18 years old. According to Gov. Kemp, there is a similar federal law already on the books.
Human trafficking crosses all sorts of racial and social lines but the victims are primarily teens and younger children.
To that end, Gov. Kemp has said he wants those seeking renewal of commercial driver’s licenses or getting such a license for the first time to take an anti-trafficking course.
The state has taken some steps to curtail trafficking. Atlanta is considered one of the top 15 cities in the nation for human traffickers.
Last year, the state created the HEAT — Human Exploitation and Trafficking — Unit to operate under the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Its mission is to go after commercial sex traffickers and labor traffickers, and to help the victims of adults trafficking.
The state’s GRACE (Georgians for Refuge, Action, Compassion, and Education) Commission was enacted for the sole purpose of fighting human trafficking in Georgia. Our state’s first lady, Marty Kemp, is the co-chair.
The two measures under consideration in the Statehouse will help the victims down the road. But more needs to be done to stop the traffickers and their activities before there are more victims.
Let’s hope the HEAT Unit and the GRACE Commission are successful in those aspects as well.