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  • Alyssa Spencer

California Democrats Agree To Push Bill To Increase Punishment For Child Traffickers After Backlash

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) speaks during the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, on May 2, 2023.

Earlier this week, California Democrats blocked a bill in the Assembly Public Safety Committee which would make child trafficking a severe felony in the state of California. The bill was blocked in committee after it passed unanimously in the state senate. The bill in question would make child trafficking subject to the 3-strikes law in California, meaning the third offense would result in a life sentence in prison.

The bill was widely supported by California Republicans and many Democrats. It was even supported by California’s democratic governor, Gavin Newsom. However the bill was blocked in committee by democrats, who control the Assembly Public Safety committee. Democrats have a long history of opposing longer prison sentences because many of them do not see it as an effective crime deterrent.

Assembly Democrats also claimed that they were concerned that the bill would lead to victims of human trafficking to be charged and punished by the law. The author of the bill, Republican State Sen. Shannon Grove rejected those claims in this statement:

“There's no reason to take amendments. It's a very narrowly tailored bill addressing human trafficking of a minor child — selling a child for sex." Grove said. “It needs to be passed as is.”

She continued stating: “We don't want anyone who's a victim of a violent crime like human trafficking to be charged or put in prison for that," she said. “That is not my intent. that is not what the bill says.”

Governor Newsom came out in unusual fashion to publicly support the bill and he even pushed to revive the bill after it was stalled in the Assembly Public Safety Committee. With the issue of high crime rates being a particularly potent voting issue in the 2022 midterms, many democratic state leaders are now facing intense pressure to go harder on crime than they have in the past— Governor Newsom in particular has been one of the many leaders participating in this about-face. 

The Democratic move to block the bill has many critics saying that, among other issues, had very poor timing. The new movie Sound of Freedom, has been raising awareness as to the widespread problem of child sex trafficking. The Democrats move has been perceived by many as a pro child sex trafficking, soft-on-crime move— especially as the film highlights the United States where child sex trafficking has become a multi-billion dollar industry.  


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