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Wyoming Poised to Become Last State to Criminalize Human Trafficking

CHEYENNE, WY – Wyoming is on track to become the 50th state to pass legislation against human trafficking, making it illegal to traffic individuals for commercial sex or forced labor. On Friday, January 25th, bill sponsors Representatives Cathy Connolly (D-Laramie) and Keith Gingery (R-Teton) urged their colleagues to support the measure, which increases punishment of traffickers and provides social services for underage victims of commercial sex exploitation.

HB 133 was unanimously passed by the House Judiciary Committee on Monday, January 21. Rep. Connolly praised the Committee’s fast response and is now calling on her colleagues for full passage of the bill.

“I am thrilled to help provide this very necessary legislation for the victims of human trafficking and to punish their traffickers,” Connolly said. “I want to acknowledge the work of the many victim advocates for their commitment on behalf of those trafficked for their tireless dedication. Due to their efforts, the support for this bill has been overwhelming.”

Republican co-sponsor Rep. Keith Gingery added, “Without a tough anti-trafficking law on the books in Wyoming, cases that do not rise to the attention of federal prosecutors slip through the cracks. Wyoming needs to send a message loud and clear to would-be traffickers: not in our state.”

Human trafficking is a fast growing criminal industry, with traffickers making billions in profits by using force, fraud or coercion to rob victims of their freedom, including U.S. citizens. According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, sex or labor trafficking were reported in all 50 states in 2012, including Wyoming. In 2004, only four states had anti-human trafficking statutes. Today, Wyoming is the only state in the nation to not have a specific state law on the subject.

“Human trafficking exists in every state in the country and Wyoming is no exception,” said Britanny Vanderhoof, Polaris Project’s Policy Associate. “We’re happy that legislators on both sides of the aisle agree on the importance of this law and are sending the message that the people of Wyoming will not stand for this terrible form of abuse.”

Dozens of activists from across the state are at the Capitol today to meet with members of the Wyoming legislation to urge support for the legislation. More than 700 Wyoming citizens signed a petition to WY lawmakers urging passage of a comprehensive anti-trafficking law. The bill has also been endorsed by the Wyoming Association of Churches.

“As our nation marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation this month, Wyoming citizens across the political spectrum are asking their elected leaders to maintain America’s role in ending the scourge of modern-day slavery,” said Eileen Campbell, Director of Advocacy at International Justice Mission. “Policymakers who may not agree on other issues share a common commitment to this cause, and their constituents clearly support that.”

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.

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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.

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