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Senate: Workgroup to Study Safe Harbor Policy for Youth Victims of Human Trafficking

SB 521, Support

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.

SB 521 establishes the Workgroup to Study Safe Harbor Policy for Youth Victims of Human Trafficking in an effort to assess the legal protections and services provided for youth victims of human trafficking.

The Catholic Church vehemently opposes human trafficking because it disregards the dignity of human life by buying, selling, and trading human beings as if they were merchandise . Although many human trafficking efforts notably focus on sex trafficking, the Church reminds us to turn our attention to labor trafficking that is also prevalent in the United States. Many people are coerced into labor with the promise of income, education, and/or citizenship. Sadly, children and youth make up a large population of trafficking victims and are particularly vulnerable to this national and international industry. Human trafficking is the modern day slavery.

Pope Francis asserts that, “Human trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ. It is a crime against humanity…we want our strategies and areas of expertise to be accompanied and reinforced by the mercy of the Gospel, by closeness to the men and women who are victims of this crime” (Conference on Combating Human Trafficking, 2014).

Unfortunately, Maryland is not immune to modern slavery and, therefore, must act on behalf of victims of all forms of trafficking. The formation of this workgroup is essential to evaluating the protections and services that are currently afforded to trafficking victims and determining how to tailor those protections and services to the needs of youth.

The Conference appreciates your consideration and urges your favorable support of SB 521.