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Texas Lawmaker Wants Tougher Punishment For Human Trafficking
State representative Senfronia Thompson is tackling human trafficking.
"We want to highlight modern-day slavery," said Thompson.
The Houston democrat is the co-sponsor of House Bill 8, which seeks to stiffen the punishment for people convicted of human trafficking.
Thursday morning state troopers discovered 13 people hiding out in a Ford pickup truck. 12 of them are believed to be from Mexico -- the other from El Salvador.
"Some of them were concealed and some were visible," said Texas Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Robbie Barrera.
According to Barrera, state troopers stopped the truck -- which was headed northbound on I-35 near Slaughter Lane -- because it did not have a license plate lamp and the driver did not signal before changing lanes.
The driver ditched his human cargo and took off.
"They were released to Border Patrol," added Barrera.
Border Patrol isn't saying if they suspect human smuggling. Thompson says she wouldn't be surprised.
"They have no money, they don't speak the language, they have no family," added Thompson.
According to the Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force, there have been 678 incidents of human trafficking reported since 2007. Many of the victims were smuggled into this country, spending thousands of dollars expecting a dream, but instead living a nightmare.
"They may take long time to get that debt paid off, which is how human smuggling turns into trafficking," said Thompson.
Thompson is also sponsoring another measure to tackle human trafficking.
If passed, it would help train people like teachers and doctors to better recognize a victim of the crime.
Thompson says that with each session the legislative momentum is building to fight the state's human trafficking and smuggling problem.
By Alex Boyer