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Human trafficking blog series update: Legislation and Safe Harbor Bill

The TVPA

The first ever comprehensive law passed to prevent human trafficking and protect victims was called the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000. Subsequent re-authorizations (TVPA) expanded protection and services for international and domestic victims. This act made a difference for victims trafficked from overseas into the United States because victims could be issued T-visas that allowed them to temporarily stay in the United States and make use of victim services. T-visas give victims from overseas a way of gaining independence away from their pimps or from the people who brought them to the United States. After gaining the T-visa, they can also choose to continue staying in the United States or go back to where they had originally come from.

On top of attending to the needs of the victims, the TVPA also brought about tools for the prosecution and punishment for traffickers. Traffickers who kidnapped, sexually assaulted, attempted to kill or killed their victims could be sentenced to life in imprisonment. In addition, traffickers who used fraud, force or coercion to sexually exploit minors could also face life in prison.

Safe Harbor in Minnesota

The TVPA is one of the forces pushing states to implement similar laws that punish traffickers and protect victims. The Advocates for Human Rights in Minnesota pioneered and led a coalition of non-profits and activists to write and lobby for the Safe Harbor bill which Governor Mark Dayton signed into law in 2011.

The Safe Harbor bill explicitly defines sexually exploited minors as victims who are in need of protection and victim services, and not delinquents. This law that will be enacted in 2014 charged the commissioner of public safety, the commissioner of human services and the commissioner of health in alliance with many groups of people involved in providing services and stakeholders to put together a comprehensive child victims services almost from scratch.

According to Jeff Bauer, Director of Public Policy at the Family Partnership and a member of the Safe Harbor coalition, there are virtually no shelter beds in the state that are dedicated to housing minor victims of sexual exploitation now. But all that will soon change because he is now traveling all around the state to string together resources and connecting service providers, translators, hospitals and stakeholders into a system that would potentially be dedicated to serving and protecting minors who are sexually exploited.

Although this Safe Harbor bill is one big step forward, Bauer believes that more should be done. While children under 15 are immune from prosecution, children who are 16 and 17 could still be prosecuted under the juvenile justice system if they have already gone through the mandatory first referral to victim services. He believes that all minors under the age of 18 should be protected and never be treated as criminals.

Updates on the Safe Harbor coalition

I had the opportunity to shadow Bauer to some of the daily meetings where I got to meet many dedicated professionals who are as passionate about this issue as he is. At the No Wrong Door meeting that brought together the whole Safe Harbor coalition to unveil and review the whole system of services they had worked so hard on, I learned the basic workings of the sexually exploited child victim services. Victims could be referred from anywhere such as getting picked up on the streets, hospitals or even self-referred. Once they are referred, they will work with an expert from their region who will make sure they get all the services and protection they need to regain their lives. Services include chemical dependency rehabilitation, education, legal services, mental health consultations, employment help and many more.

According to Bauer, similar system had been set up in other states but most of the systems turned out to be a failure. This is because most of the time, only one department of the government worked on creating the system, which caused many conflicts within a framework where it is necessary for multiple parties to work together. With that in mind, I was hopeful that our system might just be one of the successful systems while I sat in a room full of lawyers, social workers, law enforcement officers, lawmakers and other professionals with a variety of expertise and watching them debate about definitions, talk about procedures and basically working together.

What is needed from the Asian Community in Minnesota

While there seems to be hope of child victims of sexual exploitation, human trafficking is a problem that is not only prevalent but even increasing in Minnesota, Bauer said. Bauer recommends that communities of color should start talking about this hidden problem and “accept that it is happening to their own children.” “Silence is what allows this problem to grow in our state,” he said. The Asian community can also work together with the Safe Harbor coalition to create a culturally appropriate system that would serve Asian victims better. The victim services should not be a one-size-fits-all system. He hopes that more people from the Asian community can give their input on how services can be more culturally specific. If you have any ideas or questions at all, please leave a comment and I will be sure to address them all.

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Posted by on June 14, 2012 in CAPM news, Legislative

 

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2012 Legislative Session update

An update on legislative bills and movement, so far. The 2012 legislative session is expected to end by mid to late April. To view more information about these bills, visit our 2012 legislative agenda page: http://www.capm.state.mn.us/legagenda_current.html

Economic

HF 645 and SF 947 – Collaborative grant program to reduce minority populations unemployment and appropriation.

CAPM’s position: Support

Status: Last heard in 2011, this bill did not make any movement in 2012. The bills are not expected to pass in 2012.

Education

HF 1953 – Prohibits bullying and retaliation against bullying in public schools

CAPM’s position: Neutral

Status: CAPM was informed that the language in the bill may have unintentional and undesirable consequences on how bullying is treated in schools. We await the governor’s bullying taskforce’s recommendation as they conduct hearing and discussions on how best to protect all students from harassment and bullying in school.

Health

HF 1907 / SF 1556 – Restores the 20% wage cut for family members providing PCA services.

CAPM’s position: Support

Status: see below…

 

HF 1888 / SF 1672 – Restores cuts to Emergency Medical Assistance for non-citizens.

CAPM’s position: Support

Status: see below….

The Senate passed the Omnibus Health and Human Services Bill (HF 2294) sponsored by Sen. David Hann (R-Eden Prairie) on Thursday afternoon. The legislation includes $22 million in new spending as a result of an announcement by Governor Dayton this week that health plans would repay $73 million to the government due to a cap on Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) profits. The bill partially restores the Emergency Medical Assistance program, temporarily restores pay for personal care attendants (PCAs) who attend to relatives, and provides dialysis and cancer treatments for non-citizens. The House companion bill was passed on March 29. The bills will eventually go to a conference committee to sort out any differences. Sen. Hann said Thursday that the bill won’t be perfect for everyone but it’s his intention to produce a bill with broad support from the Legislature that the Governor will sign into law.

CAPM will keep an eye on things for the HHS bill.

State Government

HF 2555 / SF 2304 –Sunset advisory commission sunset review changes implementation, administrative procedures and fees modification and appropriation

CAPM’s position: Support

Status: Both bills have been active during the 2012 session and we are cautiously optimistic about the passage of the bills.

Constitutional Amendment

Voter ID – Constitutional amendment to require Minnesotans to show a valid photo ID in order to vote.

CAPM’s position: Oppose

Status: The last step to put the question on the Election Day ballot came April 4, when the Minnesota Senate approved legislation passed earlier by the House.

Voters will be asked:

“Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present valid photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters, effective July 1, 2013?”

Expect a voter education campaign from organizations on both sides of the issue this summer and fall.

To learn more, MPR has a voter ID primer at: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2012/02/03/voter_id_faq/

The Voter ID amendment proposal joins the marriage amendment proposal this November on the ballot.

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Posted by on April 9, 2012 in Legislative

 

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March 12, 2012 – Burma Health Dialogue recap

Burma

On March 12, 2011, the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans joined with five other sponsors to host the Burma Health Forum, which aimed to create greater dialogue pertaining to the health needs of refugees from Burma in Minnesota. The forum featured keynote speaker, Dr. Myo Nyunt, who provided political and historical background information on the country of Burma; a first-hand refugee story from Eh Tha Khu, a newly arrived Karen refugee to Minnesota; and several panelists who work in both systems navigation and health integration for refugee community members in the state of Minnesota.

SponsorsThe Language BancThe Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans,Karen Organization of MinnesotaHealthEast Care SystemUCareMN Department of Health

Event Materials

Presentations (all files are in PDF format, will open in new window)

It is the hope of this council and its sponsors that this forum will be the first of many discussions about how to better address the various healthcare needs of refugees from Burma living in Minnesota. It is imperative that healthcare providers work with both local refugee integration organizations as well as the Burma community itself to gain a greater understanding of the unique cultural, linguistic, and personal barriers that prevent these citizens from getting the care they need and deserve.

Call to ActionWithout action, there is no change.

  • Contact your legislators: Individuals, groups, or organizations interested in speaking to legislators to advocate on behalf of the community from Burma may contact the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans.
  • Connecting with stakeholders: Want to be more involved in discussing way to improve health outcomes and health care access for refugees from Burma? Please contact the Council at capm@state.mn.us as a way to get in touch with organizations and individuals working on this topic.
 
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Posted by on March 22, 2012 in CAPM Events, Community news, Legislative, Resources

 

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Governor’s bullying prevention task force members named

Gov. Mark Dayton’s office today announced the members of a Governor’s Task Force on the Prevention of School Bullying.

The governor said in a statement:

“Bullying causes severe suffering and harm to the children, who are its victims; and we must do more to stop it.  Children and parents in Minnesota should have confidence that their schools are safe places for learning and are free of harm or intimidation.  The work of this Task Force is critical to ensuring that a healthy and nurturing school environment exists for every child in our state.”

Members of the task force are:

  • Brenda Cassellius, commissioner, Minnesota Department of Education
  • Kevin Lindsey, commissioner, Minnesota Department of Human Rights
  • Willie Bridges, senior planning manager, Hennepin County Attorney’s Office
  • Vangie Castro, youth education program manager, Rochester Public Schools
  • Phil Duran, legal director, OutFront Minnesota
  • Alana Friedman, teacher
  • Julie Hertzog, director, PACER National Bullying Prevention Center
  • Lyn Mitchell, co-founder, AMAZE
  • Jacob Reitan, founder, Equality Ride
  • Walter Roberts, councilor, Minnesota State University, Mankato
  • Dr. Thomas Scott, pediatrician
  • Sen. Scott Dibble
  • Rep. Jim Davnie
  • Two Republican legislators have been invited and are yet to be announced by leadership.
 
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Posted by on March 6, 2012 in Legislative

 

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