Last week, the 102nd Legislature was officially sworn into office. After the ceremonies concluded, the Michigan House of Representatives passed HR 008, my resolution to declare January 2023 as Human Trafficking Awareness Month in the state of Michigan.
Illegal under federal and state law, human trafficking is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the world. According to the U.S. Department of State, it is second only to drug trafficking as the most profitable form of crime.
To combat this form of modern-day slavery, the people of the United States, the federal government, and state and local governments must work to understand the complex nature of this problem better. Michigan, unfortunately, ranks among the top ten states in terms of human trafficking cases, and with I—94 running right through our community and our proximity to large cities like Chicago, Detroit, and Grand Rapids, this atrocious act is happening right in our own backyard.
In Southwest Michigan, we understand the gravity of the situation and, as a community, are taking action to fight back and tell traffickers they’re not welcome here. Last year, more than 30 hotels in Southwest Michigan joined the fight by partnering with the Southwest Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force and law enforcement agencies. I’m incredibly proud of the hard work our local businesses, law enforcement officers, and prosecutors have put into combating this crime. Thanks to their actions, countless individuals who have been victims of human trafficking and survived have been liberated and begun a long road to recovery.
Human trafficking is not exclusive to just one gender. All victims of human trafficking deserve equal respect and the opportunity to report that trauma without judgment. This January, I encourage you to educate yourselves about human trafficking and be aware of its prevalence in our state and our own backyard. As always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office at PaulineWendzel@house.mi.gov or give me a call at 517-373-1799.