Last week, outgoing Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson, R–Trilby, announced the appointment of state Sen. Ileana Garcia, R-Miami, the chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs, to the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking.
Garcia’s term of service begins immediately and expires June 15, 2026.
“I am pleased to appoint Senator Garcia as a member of the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking. She is a passionate advocate for victims of these horrific crimes and will be a strong voice in the search for solutions,” said Simpson. “Throughout her Senate service, Senator Garcia has sponsored and passed key legislation aimed at protecting victims of domestic violence and human trafficking and also supporting the volunteers and community advocates who serve these vulnerable Floridians. She has a strong commitment to help those who have been abused, neglected, and victimized. I know she will serve the Senate and Florida well in this important role.”
“I thank President Simpson for entrusting me with this important responsibility. Human traffickers are dangerous criminals in constant search of new ways to evade law enforcement. We know what we are up against and must therefore be even more dedicated and strategic in our pursuit of innovative ways to bring these criminals to justice,” said Garcia. “We must also be diligent in our efforts to support and advocate for the protection and wellbeing of victims and survivors of these horrific crimes. I look forward to the opportunity to continue to work in this important policy area on behalf of my constituents and my Senate colleagues.”
During the 2022 Legislative Session, Garcia sponsored legislation to reduce human trafficking in Florida and provide support for victims and their families.
House Bill 1577, Homeless Youth, expands several programs for homeless youth, who are often preyed upon by human traffickers, including the campus coach program to ensure success in postsecondary education, and the Keys to Independence program, which removes barriers to employment and puts youth on a path to independence. The bill removes barriers for accessing medical and other care, requires local school districts to provide certified homeless youth with a card that includes pertinent information related to the care for which they are entitled, and expands the fee waiver exemption for birth records to certified homeless youth and foster youth who have aged out of the child welfare system. The legislation was signed into law by Governor DeSantis on April 6, 2022.
House Bill 615, Human Trafficking, provides human trafficking training for foster parents and staff within Florida’s Child Welfare System. The bill also provides fire safety inspectors with continuing education credits for courses that address human trafficking identification and reporting. Additionally, the bill requires the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking to assess how social media platforms are being used to facilitate human trafficking, establish a process to detect such use on a consistent basis, and make recommendations on how to eliminate or prevent social media platforms from being used for such purposes. The legislation was signed into law by Governor DeSantis on June 3, 2022.
Senate Bill 606, The Boating Safety Act of 2022, focuses on illegal liveries, vessel safety and boating safety programs. This bill addresses dangerous boating and allows law enforcement to hold irresponsible livery operations and bad actors accountable for their actions. The legislation is based on Senator Garcia’s work with the U.S. Coast Guard and local law enforcement who identified widespread criminal activities stemming from rampant illegal charter and livery operations, including increased human trafficking and drug trafficking in South Florida. The legislation was presented to the Governor on June 9, 2022.
During the 2021 Legislative Session, Senator Garcia championed two pieces of key legislation, now law, to enhance protections for victims of domestic violence as well as employees and advocates at domestic violence shelters. These critical shelters provide a place of protection and refuge for victims of domestic violence and human trafficking and their children.
Senate Bill 70, Domestic Violence Centers, signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis on June 16, 2021, makes it a first-degree misdemeanor, or a felony upon a second or subsequent conviction, for any person to maliciously publish, disseminate, or disclose any descriptive information or image that may identify the location of a certified domestic violence center.
Senate Bill 68, Public Records/Staff and Domestic Violence Advocates of Domestic Violence Centers, signed into law by Governor DeSantis on June 4, 2021, exempts from public record the personal information and addresses of DCF domestic violence shelters, current or former staff, domestic violence advocates, and their families.
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