California legislators have recently demonstrated their commitment to protecting children by introducing a bill that aims to address child trafficking as a significant offense. Three state senators, representing both Republican and Democratic parties—Shannon Grove, Anna Caballero, and Susan Rubio—sponsored the bipartisan bill, known as SB-14. This legislation seeks to amend the California Penal Code and reclassify the act of trafficking minors as a severe felony, placing it in the same category as heinous crimes such as murder and rape. Consequently, this proposed change would enable courts to impose longer prison sentences, potentially including life imprisonment, for convicted traffickers.
The senators introduced the bill in response to reports that California, particularly Native American girls, faces a severe human trafficking issue, considered the most severe in the United States. Their intention was to take strong action against this abhorrent crime. On May 25, the bill successfully advanced to the floor of the State Senate and received unanimous support, with a vote of 40-0.
Unfortunately, the bill encountered an obstacle when it reached the Assembly Public Safety Committee, preventing it from progressing to the State House. Within the committee, six out of eight members belong to the Democratic Party, all of whom chose to abstain from voting on the bill. While both Republican members voted in favor of passing the bill, a peculiar aspect of California law prevents it from proceeding to the House floor despite having received two favorable votes and none in opposition.
The majority leader of the Committee, State Representative Isaac Bryan, who belongs to the Democratic Party, expressed his belief that imposing longer sentences would only contribute to reinforcing harmful and oppressive systems. He advocated for investing in communities to prevent the issue of child trafficking altogether.
Despite testimonies from trafficking victims, including Odessa Perkins, who argued that the Committee’s resistance to longer prison terms perpetuates a distressing cycle of abuse and moral degradation, Bryan remained steadfast in his stance. Regrettably, it appears that the Committee prioritizes the enforcement of progressive anti-prison policies over taking concrete actions to address the problem of traffickers.