House Democrats Urge DeSantis Crackdown on Sex Traffickers in Florida

House Democrats Urge DeSantis Crackdown on Sex Traffickers in Florida

Daniel Molina
Daniel Molina
|
February 5, 2023

Florida Rep. Lois Frankel (D) has issued a letter to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) expressing her concern over the sex trafficking of foster children in Florida. L

The letter was directed to Governor DeSantis and the heads of the Florida State House and Senate, and in it the House Democrats express their “deep concern over recent reports of sex trafficking of foster children in the State of Florida.

Frankel was joined by Florida Reps. Frederica S. Wilson (D), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D), Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (D), Kathy Castor (D), Maxwell Frost (D), Darren Soto (D), and Jared Moskowitz (D), who all signed on to the letter.

In the letter, the House Democrats warn that there is “a thriving sex trade in Florida hotels, as reported in recent articles in the Sun Sentinel newspaper.”

“As you should know, foster children are among the most vulnerable members of our society, and they deserve our utmost protection and care,” they wrote, adding that “the fact that they are being exploited and abused in this way is a grave injustice, and it is imperative that we do everything in our power to bring those responsible to justice and prevent further incidents with a change in Florida’s foster care system.”

As reported by the Sun Sentinel, the letter argues that “hotels in Florida are committing violations in huge numbers of HB 851-Human Trafficking, a law passed in the 2019 state legislative session. That law intended to combat sex trafficking in hotels by creating human trafficking awareness training and policies for public lodging establishments and imposing $2,000 fines for establishments, not in compliance with the law.”

In turn, House Democrats are calling for DeSantis to commit to “increased funding for investigative and enforcement efforts, more robust protections, and support for foster children, including family-based care options and legislative fixes.”

In January, Rep. Vern Buchanan (R) and Rep. Wasserman Schultz (D) introduced a bipartisan piece of legislation known as The Human Trafficking and Exploitation Prevention Training Act. 

The bill looks to “combat human trafficking by educating students about how to properly identify the warning signs. Children account for more than half of all trafficking victims.

Florida State Senator Lori Berman and Representative Kelly Skidmore also recently proposed a new anti-human trafficking bill addressing the ongoing human trafficking crisis in the Florida Legislature.

SB 166 and HB 59 target “several notable gaps” in Florida legislation.

Under the new law, “Maintaining a house of prostitution” is no longer a misdemeanor but a second-degree felony. The filing is aimed at bolstering the legal definitions of acts such as coercion and drugging to include the use of alcoholic substances.

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Daniel Molina

Daniel Molina

Daniel Molina is an award-winning senior reporter based in Miami. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Florida International University. His hobbies include reading, writing, and watching films.

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