As the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Human Trafficking and Domestic Violence, Minal Davis has overseen anti-trafficking policies and initiatives over the last six years for the City of Houston.
- One such example is the Hotel Ordinance advanced by Mayor Turner that was passed unanimously by City Council in April 2020, which serves as the foundation for HB 390.
As per reports from Polaris, the national anti-trafficking organization, both sex and labor trafficking are prevalent in hotels across Texas. Traffickers have quickly made these businesses a part of their illicit business models as they work day and night to exploit the most vulnerable, mostly women and children, in our state’s cities and rural areas – all as hotel and motel owners stand to profit. One of the prevalent forms of sex trafficking in hotels is via escort services, either through out calls or in calls, be it high end or low-end hotels.
Victims are sometimes “housed” in hotels and are often subjected to violence within hotel rooms. There are even instances where traffickers/pimps have used hotels as their base operations. Hotels and motels have also been used to exploit Texas youth for labor via travelling sales crews, a form of labor trafficking that exploits vulnerable youth such as homeless youth, to sell wares never seeing pay or profit, staying at motels along their routes.
Labor trafficking also occurs within the hotel and hospitality industry itself. Potential victims of labor trafficking can work as front-of-house staff, food service workers, and most frequently, in housekeeping.
Furthermore, in Houston, with just under 560 hotels, Police conducted 269 operations at 116 locations over 4 years. This demonstrates a need for additional regulation that empowers employees to be trained with consistency on both sex and labor trafficking to fill the gaps in law enforcement capacity to combat this heinous crime.
House Bill 390 expands these regulations statewide:
- Requires hotel operators to provide training to each employee (free training is available through the Texas Attorney General’s office in multiple languages)
- Requires training records be kept and would have to be produced within 72 hours
- Requires hoteliers to display signs in English and Spanish with indicators and a hotline number
- Protects employees that do report from retaliation
Along with Representative Senfronia Thompson, Senator Huffman’s office has worked closely with the City of Houston on anti-human trafficking efforts on our ordinance.
The Senator added the following line to make sure Houston’s program was protected under House Bill 390: “If a municipal ordinance described by Subsection (a) conflicts with a provision of this chapter, the more stringent regulation controls to the extent of the conflict.”