Unlike most crime victims, survivors of human trafficking cannot receive compensation from economic losses as a result of the crimes committed against them, but a bill by Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed this week, aims to remedy the issue.
Assembly Bill 629, which was introduced by Smith and coauthored by several other legislators including Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, will aid victims of human trafficking by authorizing the Victim Compensation Board to provide compensation equal to the loss of income or support to individuals, starting Jan. 1, 2020.
“The stories I heard from survivors of human trafficking completely broke my heart,” Smith said in a statement. “It was clear the scars of human trafficking are compounded with the obstacles of rebuilding a life from the bottom up, often interlocking with issues such as homelessness, addiction problems and physical and mental trauma. This bill touches the surface of hardship that victims endure, but AB 629 helps victims get back on their feet and out of the human trafficking cycle.”
The FBI has labeled California as home to three of 13 “high-intensity” areas for trafficking and the county of Los Angeles as a “major hub” for the same crime. The number of cases in the Santa Clarita Valley may not be as high as other places in the region but “it’s definitely a problem in our area here in Santa Clarita,” said Ester Yu, an assistant regional director with ZOE International, an organization with a local office that focuses on rescuing and restoring child trafficking victims.
“We focus on assisting minors but adults in Santa Clarita are also victims. We do get calls from different partners who contact us because they say many of their clients are human trafficking victims and are in need of consultation,” said Yu.
AB 629 received no opposition in the state Legislature and was applauded as “first-of-its-kind legislation” to help provide “a little bit of justice for trafficking survivors” and inspire other states to adopt similar measures, said Stephanie Richard, senior policy advisor with Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, an organization Smith partnered with to bring forward the bill.