Queens lawmaker’s legislation protecting survivors of human trafficking signed into law

State Senator James Sanders (pictured) and Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi applaud Governor Andrew Cuomo for signing their human trafficking legislation into law. (Photo courtesy of Sanders’ office)

Two Queens lawmakers lauded Governor Andrew Cuomo for signing their legislation into law Wednesday, July 28, that will allow victims of human trafficking to recover actual, compensatory and punitive damages or other appropriate relief.

The legislation (S672) also amends current law that requires an action to be commenced within 10 years of victimization; the amended legislation states that an action can be commenced within 15 years after victimization has occurred.

“Although this law will not take away the deep-rooted pain and emotional scars sustained by victims of human trafficking, at least it will give them expanded opportunities for some closure and compensation towards making them whole and moving on with their lives,” state Senator James Sanders said.

Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (Photo courtesy of Hevesi’s office)

The legislation was carried in the lower chamber by Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, who explained that the new law extends the statute of limitations to 15 years for a survivor of human trafficking to bring a civil court action against the perpetrator or anyone who knowingly profits off such “despicable crimes” by adding five years to the existing 10-year statute.

“In addition, this new law goes even further to protect those who were trafficked as minors or those with disabilities, allowing them an additional 12 years to bring civil action,” Hevesi said. “It also expands the type of compensation survivors may be entitled to from just the recovery of damages and reasonable legal fees to include actual, compensatory and punitive damages, injunctive relief or any combination thereof.”

The borough has long been known as a hotbed of human trafficking due to incoming international flights at JFK Airport and its proximity to the I-95 corridor.

Just months after taking office last year, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz created the Human Trafficking Bureau that is exclusively dedicated to combating sex and labor trafficking by aggressively prosecuting traffickers and buyers of sex. Katz called the trafficking industry a “brutal, degrading and illegal enterprise that far too often profits by forcing women, children and members of our transgender community into prostitution.”

The 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report, issued by the U.S. Department of State, reveals that a staggering 24.9 million people are robbed of their freedom and basic human dignity by sex and labor traffickers.

“Human trafficking is one of the most abhorrent crimes a person can commit. Victims of these heinous acts deserve swift criminal and civil justice executed in a manner that respects and adapts to the mental trauma they have experienced,” Cuomo said. “No longer will victims of human trafficking be forced to cover the financial costs that accompany taking their traffickers to court. This legislation ensures that survivors are not left financially strained while they work to recover mentally and physically. New York stands with victims of human trafficking and applauds them on their bravery in confronting their attackers so that others may be spared from these unfathomable experiences.”

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