By Claire Lipshultz, NCJW national Board Member and California State Policy Advocate
For 125 years, the National Council of Jewish Women has been fighting human trafficking, starting with protection of vulnerable women and children immigrants at Ellis Island. Continuing that tradition of advocacy, NCJW CA and its 6 Sections scored two important victories with the passage and signing of two human trafficking bills it co sponsored. The new laws will enhance an existing law, ( also co sponsored by NCJW CA in 2012,) by adding hotels and motels , prime locations for trafficking, to the list of 12 business categories required to post a public notice with human trafficking Hotline safety phone numbers. The new laws also update the model notice to include a TEXT number to these Hotlines, the safest way for survivors and the community to report abuses. This type of notice is the single most important means for identifying and rescuing trafficked victims. Each year, the National Human Trafficking Hotline yields thousands of cases (7,572 cases in 2016 alone) with usage going up consistently each year. Human trafficking is a multibillion dollar criminal enterprise in California and globally.
NCJW CA advocates played a crucial role in the legislative success. State Policy Advocate Claire Lipschultz worked with the authors’ legislative staff to draft the bills and strategize about a successful campaign for passage. She met with Governor Brown’s chief legislative staff to identify any issues which might impede his signing the bill if it came to his desk. But it took the many voices of our California Sections’ advocates in strong support of the bills to get them over the line.
Seventy five members from across the state received training on the bills and how to lobby at the NCJW CA annual Lobby Day in early June, 2017. The following day they visited their respective legislators to educate them about trafficking and the need for the legislation. When the bills passed the legislature, our advocates then contacted Governor Brown. Throughout the many month process, NCJW CA advocates made phone calls, conducted in district visits and sent emails at critical points in response to Action Alerts put out by the CA State Policy Advocates.
All of the California Sections have also been active in the implementation of the current human trafficking notice law. For the past several years, Sections have created regional model notices and initiated ongoing community wide efforts to educate businesses about human trafficking and their responsibility to post the life saving notice. Many hundreds of businesses have been visited through NCJW led efforts. Further, we have partnered with other key organizations fighting trafficking as well as supportive law enforcement community to strengthen the effectiveness of the notice law.
We still have much to do to fight human trafficking and our able NCJW advocates will continue to lead the way in California.