January 30, 2020

Bill to help trafficked minors clears Senate Judiciary Committee

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Matthew Reichbach

A bill that advocates say could aid children in getting away from human traffickers passed the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously on Wednesday.

SB 66 would appropriate $250,000 from the general fund to the Crime Victims Reparation Commission. The commission would then make money available to social service agencies which advocates say are often on the front lines of trying to help youth who have been trafficked.

According to the bill’s fiscal impact report, there are 5,000 kids who are homeless in Bernalillo County alone. A large number of that 5,000 are believed to be trafficked victims.

Lynn Sanchez, a victims’ advocate who spoke as the expert for the bill, told NM Political Report that the money can help stabilize the kids.

“If we don’t stabilize them right away, they run,” she said. “We can’t offer more than a trafficker does without services.”

Sanchez said children who have been trafficked are “our most vulnerable.”

She said that beyond clothing, food and a safe place to sleep, they often need things like copies of their birth certificates and social security cards because they have nothing to identify them when they come off the streets. They also need counseling, dental and medical attention.

Sanchez, who works as a human trafficking victims’ advocate for The Life Link, a Santa Fe nonprofit, said recently advocates sent a 13 year-old victim https://www.nmlegis.gov/Sessions/20%20Regular/bills/senate/SB0066.pdfto Louisiana because there were no services in New Mexico. She told another story of a 16 year-old victim who was in the psychiatric unit of a local hospital because advocates had no place to send her.

Four victims’ advocates gave their support to the bill during the hearing. There was no opposition either during public comment nor from the committee members. State Sen. Bill Tallman, D-Albuquerque, and Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, are sponsoring the bill.