Committee: House Judiciary
The Maryland Catholic Conference (“Conference”) represents the public policy interests of the three Roman Catholic (arch)dioceses serving Maryland: the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington.
House Bill 734 creates the criminal offense of labor trafficking. Currently, there is no such crime in the state of Maryland.
The Conference strongly supports efforts to eradicate human trafficking by strengthening laws protecting victims against traffickers, providing services and rehabilitation to victims, and increasing awareness of the issue. Pope Francis has strenuously called on society to make every effort to eradicate sex trafficking, which he has called a “shameful and intolerable crime.” Moreover, he has urged government officials to “combat this scourge with firmness, giving voice to our younger brothers and sisters who have been wounded in their dignity, and constitutes a true crime against humanity.” When people are used like commodities, it strips the dignity from their person and lessens their worth as a human life. Human trafficking – both sex trafficking and labor trafficking –is considered modern-day slavery.
Not criminalizing labor trafficking has an incredibly harmful effect both for the victims of trafficking and for the prosecution of traffickers. Without a delineated labor trafficking statute, traffickers and the horrendous offenses they commit slip through the legal cracks, leaving them able to continue the practices, and victims may be left unable to access the services they need if the crimes committed against them are not legitimized.
Labor trafficking is occurring in industries across the state, and it affects – often silently – members of our own communities. House Bill 734 is a crucial first step to addressing this issue.
The Conference appreciates your consideration and, for these reasons, respectfully requests a favorable report on House Bill 734.