Texas Lawmakers Introduce 'Protect Act'

WACO, Texas - The Texas-Mexico Border places Central Texas at the center of the human trafficking epidemic.

What is particularly startling is traffickers' use of drugs to coerce and control young men and women into a life of sexual exploitation. 

Two Texas lawmakers are now introducing the "Protect Act", which specifically addresses using drugs to facilitate trafficking. Local organizations say this will help in the overall problem.

"At least half, if not more, of the victims that we… no, I would have to say the vast majority of victims that we work with have some form of substance abuse," says UnBound Assistant National Director Natalie Garnett.

UnBound is a local organization working to help fight human trafficking internationally. Garnett says the correlation between drugs and sexual exploitation is a huge problem.

"And a common theme we see is that traffickers use drugs before exploitation. During exploitation and then even after somebody gets free, their drug addiction is still there," Garnett says.

Texas Senator John Cornyn and Representative John Ratcliffe are introducing the bipartisan protecting rights of those exploited by coercive trafficking, or the Protect Act.

Senator Cornyn tells FOX44 News:

"Creating and preying on the addictions of children is just one of the many despicable tools traffickers use to control their victims. The Protect Act would clarify that using drugs to force individuals into sex or labor trafficking demands a greater criminal penalty.

"And as UnBound members continue to work with local substance addiction facilities to help in their fight for human trafficking victims, they have a long way to go. Garnett says, "It really makes it harder for them, maybe they get out of sex trafficking but then getting out of their addiction is a whole new level, that makes it really difficult for them."

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