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Florida Human Trafficking Bill Abruptly Postponed

Activists against human trafficking rallied in Tampa last Tuesday in support of a bill that will allow victims to sue hotels that choose to ignore the prevalence of human trafficking happening behind their doors. The bill appeared to be heading to the Senate when it was mysteriously stalled by its sponsor, Sen. Lauren Book, last week.

“We know that Sen. Lauren Book has been a great advocate and that in her heart of hearts, she truly believes in the bill,” said Tampa attorney Karina I. Perez. “We can only assume the bill stalled because of politics as usual and lobbyists.”

The activists urged people to call Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto to hold another Senate Rules Committee but Benacquisto denied the request. Benacquisto blamed Book for postponing the bill and speculated that she did so because she was preoccupied with the aftermath of the Parkland shooting. However, Book said that the real reason she postponed the bill was out of fear that it would not pass the House.

Perez said that the hotel industry wants immunity from civil liability in exchange for training their employees on how to spot indicators of potential human trafficking situations.

“Providing immunity to hotels would be worse than having no law at all in our state,” said Perez. “If we provided civil liberty to the hotel industry, we would create a safe haven in Florida where hotels would be allowed to profit off of human trafficking without any fear of consequence.”

Dale Swope, an advocate for the bill, was furious when it was announced that Book had postponed the bill. He said it was “catastrophically insulting to the dignity of these women who paid such a high price to get this bill passed.”

Savannah Parvu, a trafficking survivor, can’t understand how this could have happened. Parvu had been sold for sex out of a hotel at the age of 12. She works to alleviate her own pain from the trauma by speaking out and advocating for change to help prevent future cases like her own.

“I feel like I was given false hope,” said Parvu. “I’ve done all this work, I’ve opened up and shared horrible things that have happened to me, and it doesn’t even get to be heard at the last meeting.”

Book understands that her postponing the bill has resulted in the victims being very upset. “I can promise you, this is not something I’m going to forget, and not something I’m going to stop fighting for,” she said.

We can only hope that change can be done to hold hotels accountable for the trafficking happening in their rooms and that change can come to help end human trafficking once and for all.

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