WASHINGTON, D.C. – Prior to today, 49 states had passed human trafficking laws. Today Wyoming joins the ranks as the last state to ban human trafficking with Governor Matt Mead signing the first anti-trafficking law in Wyoming, making it illegal to traffic individuals for commercial sex or forced labor.
Wyoming officials can now respond directly to local instances of human trafficking instead of relying solely on the federal government to identify and prosecute such cases, decreasing instances of both labor and sex trafficking falling through the gaps. The law is also one of the few in the country to provide strong legal protections and support for survivors of human trafficking.
According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, labor or sex trafficking were reported in all 50 states in 2012, including Wyoming. Two cases of human trafficking have been prosecuted in Wyoming by federal prosecutors in the last five years, and Wyoming Victim Services providers have reported working with human trafficking victims across the state.
Following concerted efforts from bill sponsors Representatives Cathy Connolly (D-Laramie) and Keith Gingery (R-Teton) to pass the legislation, Connolly commended the governor, legislators and local advocates for sending a clear message that trafficking and traffickers are not welcome in Wyoming.
“I was thrilled to work with citizen advocates who spent a full year bringing trafficking to the forefront, diligently educating the community and legislators about the urgent need for comprehensive trafficking legislation, so Wyoming can vigorously protect and support victims and prosecute perpetrators,” said Connolly.
Volunteer representatives from International Justice Mission’s student chapter at the University of Wyoming were among those advocates who first brought this critical issue to Connolly’s attention, and also garnered more than 1000 signatures from Wyoming residents and religious leaders to support an end to the crime.
“As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation this year, International Justice Mission is encouraged to see that all 50 states have now made human trafficking a criminal offense,” said Eileen Campbell, director of advocacy at IJM. “Wyoming now begins the important work of ensuring that first responders, law enforcement, and service providers have the knowledge and training to combat human trafficking—a crime that generates $32 billion in profits for traffickers globally.”
Human rights advocates from International Justice Mission and Polaris Project are continuing to work in partnership to ensure states not only ban the crime, but also take the next steps to advance legal protection of minor victims so children are not treated as criminals and can receive the specialized services they need to rebuild their lives.
“Passing this legislation is a significant milestone for the state of Wyoming, and for anti-trafficking activists nationwide,” said Britanny Vanderhoof, Polaris Project’s policy associate. “We are especially pleased that this bill actively protects and supports survivors of human trafficking. Polaris Project and International Justice Mission will continue to strengthen anti-trafficking laws across the country so that victims receive the assistance they need and law enforcement has the best tools to stop trafficking in our communities.”
To report a tip, connect with anti-trafficking services in your area, or request information, call The National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at: 1-888-3737-888. Wyoming citizens who wish to add their name to the state-wide petition to WY legislators can do so at stoptraffickingwyoming.com.
About Polaris Project
Polaris Project is a leading organization in the global fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Named after the North Star “Polaris” that guided people escaping slavery along the Underground Railroad, Polaris Project is transforming the way that individuals and communities respond to human trafficking, in the U.S. and globally. By successfully pushing for stronger federal and state laws, operating the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline (1-888-3737-888), conducting trainings, and providing vital services to victims of trafficking, Polaris Project creates long-term solutions that move our society closer to a world without slavery. Learn more at www.polarisproject.org.
About International Justice Mission
International Justice Mission is a human rights agency that brings rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. IJM lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals work in 16 communities in developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America with local officials to secure immediate victim rescue and aftercare, to prosecute perpetrators and to ensure that public justice systems – police, courts and laws – effectively protect the poor. Learn more at www.ijm.org.