Jackie Toledo unveils human trafficking crackdown proposal
Photo via Florida House.

Jackie Toledo on House floor
Florida ranks third in the nation for most reports to the Human Trafficking Hotline. 

Rep. Jackie Toledo is spearheading a proposal to crack down on human trafficking in Florida.

The bill (HB 1439) proposes a slew of provisions, including a prohibition of hourly rate offerings at hotels and motels.

It also seeks to raise Florida’s first-time penalty for those paying for sex, up from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony.

Those provisions, among others, aim to address the ongoing demand of forced labor, Toledo said.

Dubbed the Human Trafficking Reduction Act, the bill would also require hotel operators make guests show ID at the time of occupancy under the measure. Toledo said the proposal enjoys the blessing of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

“We are not making room at our hotels here in Florida for trafficking,” said Republican Sen. Jennifer Bradley, who is sponsoring the companion measure in the Legislature’s upper chamber.

The bill — filed Monday — marks Toledo’s latest effort to curb the trend of forced labor in Florida.

In 2021, she successfully proposed a sweeping bill which, among other provisions, bolstered victim advocate training and provided confidentiality to the criminal records of human trafficking victims as they seek expungement.

“I said it last year and I will say it again, we want to make sure the message is loud and clear that Florida is closed to human trafficking,” Toledo said.

The new measure, Toledo explained, aims to build upon those provisions by broadening the confidentiality to include paperwork related to the expungement process.

Laura Henderson, a victim of sex trafficking, joined Toledo as she unveiled the bill to press inside the Capitol. Henderson lauded Toledo’s effort and described the proposed changes as “vital” to her future.

Held captive for four years, Henderson said she has had trouble finding employment while she navigates the expungement process.

“The journey has not been easy and it has taken a long time to get through the healing and just to process it all,” Henderson said.

Florida ranks third in the nation for most reports to the Human Trafficking Hotline.

Speaking alongside other advocates, Toledo explained that trafficking does not discriminate based upon gender, age or citizenship, among other factors. The average age of sex trafficking victim, she said, is 12 to 14 years old. And 25% of victims, she added, are male.

“I know all too well the fears and concerns that we as parents carry as we send our children into the world,” said Toledo, a mother of five.

Toledo’s proposal includes a provision that would establish a statewide human trafficking data repository at the University of South Florida. The repository, she explained, will collect law enforcement data and help officials draft and evaluate combative strategies.

Brent Woody, who serves as the executive director of the Justice Restoration Center and attended the press conference, applauded the provision. He represents 150 survivors of human trafficking who are seeking expungement.

“Buying another person for sex in the state of Florida is a crime,” Woody said. “But for too long, sex buyers — those who fuel the sex trafficking industry — have received a slap on the wrist.”

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. To report human trafficking, contact local law enforcement and call the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s human trafficking number at 1 (800) 342-0820.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the Florida State Capitol. After a go with the U.S. Army, the Orlando-native attended the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. He'd love to hear from you. You can reach Jason by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.


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