SALEM, Ore. (AP) — In 2007, the Oregon Legislature passed a bill promoted by then Sen. Kate Brown making it crime to force someone to work.
Brown, who is now the governor, told a legislative committee back then that the bill would raise awareness about the problem and provide tools by law enforcement. But 13 years later, the number of people prosecuted under the statute stands at zero.
Now, a prosecutor, a state senator, a Mexican diplomat and others are coming together to again push the issue in Oregon as part of a task force created Friday by state Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum.
“I want this task force to dig into this terrible crime,” Rosenblum said in a statement Friday. “All sources suggest we lack the tools to identify, investigate and prosecute labor trafficking in our communities. We need to change that.”
The 2007 bill said the crime of involuntary servitude is being committed if a person forces another to work by threats of death or injury, restrains a person, seizes the victim’s passport or other ID, and threatens to report the person for arrest or deportation.
Rosenblum said victims of labor trafficking may include domestic servants, farmworkers, factory workers and other day laborers.
The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission has tallied no prosecutions of labor trafficking anywhere in the state, Rosenblum said.
“Human trafficking includes both sex trafficking and labor trafficking, but almost all of our public awareness focuses on sex trafficking,” Rosenblum said. “What we hear so far is that labor trafficking is very real, and it is happening under the radar in all corners of the state.”
Among members of the new Labor Trafficking Task Force are Sen. Kathleen Taylor, Mexican Consul General Beatriz Navarro and Benton County District Attorney John Haroldson.
The Task Force will meet throughout 2020 and will make recommendations for consideration by the Oregon legislature in the 2021 session.
Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky