TYLA Officers


Rebekah Steely Brooker, President


Dustin M. Howell, Chair


Sam Houston, Vice President


Baili B. Rhodes, Secretary


John W. Shaw, Treasurer


C. Barrett Thomas, President-elect


Priscilla D. Camacho, Chair-elect


Kristy Blanchard, Immediate Past President

TYLA Directors


Amanda A. Abraham, District 1


Sharesa Y. Alexander, Minority At-Large Director


Raymond J. Baeza, District 14

    Aaron J. Burke, District 5, Place 1

Aaron T. Capps, District 5, Place 2


D. Lance Currie, District 5, Place 3


Laura W. Docker, District 10, Place 1

    Andrew Dornburg, District 21
    John W. Ellis, District 8, Place 2
    Zeke Fortenberry, District 4

Bill Gardner, District 5, Place 4


Morgan L. Gaskin, District 6, Place 5

    Nick Guinn, District 18, Place 1

Adam C. Harden, District 6, Place 6


Amber L. James, District 17


Curtis W. Lucas, District 9

    Rudolph K. Metayer, District 8, Palce 1

Laura Pratt, District 3

    Sally Pretorius, District 8, Place 2

Baili B. Rhodes, District 2


Alex B. Roberts, District 6, Place 3

    Eduardo Romero, District 19
    Michelle P. Scheffler, District 6, Place 2

John W. Shaw, District 10, Place 2

    Nicole Soussan, District 6, Place 4
    L. Brook Stuntebeck, District 11

C. Barrett Thomas, District 15

    Judge Amanda N. Torres, Minority At-Large Director

Shannon Steel White, District 12

    Brandy Wingate Voss, District 13
    Veronica S. Wolfe, District 18, Place 2

Baylor Wortham, District 7

    Alex Yarbrough, District 16


Justice Paul W. Green, Supreme Court Liaison


Jenny Smith, Access To Justice Liaison


Brandon Crisp, ABA YLD District 25 Representative


Travis Patterson, ABA/YLD District 26 Representative


Assistant Dean Jill Nikirk, Law School Liaison


Belashia Wallace, Law Student Liaison


TYLA Office

Tracy Brown, Director of Administration
Bree Trevino, Project Coordinator

Michelle Palacios, Office Manager
General Questions: tyla@texasbar.com

Mailing Address

P.O. Box 12487, Capitol Station
Austin, Texas 78711-2487
(800) 204-2222 ext. 1529
FAX: (512) 427-4117

Street Address

1414 Colorado, 4th Floor
Austin, Texas 78701
(512) 427-1529


Views and opinions expressed in eNews are those of their authors and not necessarily those of the Texas Young Lawyers Association or the State Bar of Texas.





























































Top Story

Top Story

Human Trafficking: Myths, Facts, and Remedies
By:  Stacie Jonas of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid

Human trafficking is increasingly in the spotlight throughout Texas and the nation. Just last month, President Obama decried human trafficking as “one of the great human rights causes of our time,” announcing a redoubling of the Administration’s efforts to eradicate trafficking. The Texas Legislature’s bipartisan Joint Committee on Human Trafficking held three state-wide public hearings on the issue in the last year alone,1 and there are a number of active anti-trafficking coalitions and task forces throughout the state. The Texas Young Lawyers Association is also preparing to launch a public awareness campaign entitled “Slavery Out of the Shadows: Spotlight on Human Trafficking.”2

Despite these high-profile efforts to raise awareness and increase identification of victims, trafficking remains widespread. Victims remain unidentified not only because of fear or isolation, but also due to misconceptions about what constitutes trafficking. This article provides basic information that can help you identify trafficking and assess the remedies to which a victim may be entitled.

Which of These Scenarios Constitutes Trafficking?

Consider the following scenarios:

A.     A 14-year-old U.S. citizen runs away from home. She meets a man at the bus station, and he gets her involved in prostitution. The girl never receives any money, and is later severely beaten by the man when he sees her talking to another pimp.

B.     A Texas couple offers to pay a coyote $250 to smuggle a Guatemalan woman into the U.S. to do housework. The couple promises to pay her $125 a week, and says she can work off the $250 smuggling debt. After the woman arrives, the couple says she owes them far more for the smuggling costs and will have to work at least a year for them without pay. They also threaten to call the police or immigration and have her deported if she complains or stops working.

C.     Several Jamaican men legally enter the U.S. on guestworker visas to do tree removal. They are free to travel in their neighborhood and to and from work. They receive $7-$8 an hour instead of the $15-$20 they were promised, and are verbally abused and provided substandard housing. When one worker flees, the employer threatens him with bodily harm and says he will call the FBI, police, and immigration. The employer then seizes the passport and plane tickets of another worker. The next year, the employer takes the new guestworkers’ passports and tells them he will hire someone to “destroy” the worker who had fled the prior year.

Which of these scenarios constitutes trafficking? You may be surprised to learn that the answer is all of the above.3

Dispelling Common Myths About Trafficking

The federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act defines a severe form of trafficking in persons as “sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age” or “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.”4

Analyzing this definition can help to dispel several misconceptions about trafficking.

MYTH: Trafficking requires crossing an international border.

FACT: Trafficking does not require that a person be moved or transported at all, much less that the victim crosses an international border. While trafficking may begin with smuggling someone across a border, a person also can be trafficked within the United States. Indeed, as in the case described above, U.S. citizens can be victims of trafficking. On the other hand, bringing someone across the border in violation of federal immigration laws does not, standing alone, constitute human trafficking.

MYTH: Trafficking involves only sex work.

FACT: Any kind of labor obtained through force, fraud, or coercion can constitute trafficking. Sex trafficking, in turn, addresses only commercial sex, that is, a sex act that is exchanged for something of value (often prostitution).5

Further, anyone under the age of 18 who is induced to engage in a commercial sex act is a victim of trafficking. There is no requirement that they be induced through force, fraud or coercion.

MYTH: Traffickers are only strangers, pimps, and bosses.

FACT: A person can be trafficked by anyone, including a relative. Parents, “boyfriends,” siblings and even spouses can be traffickers.6

MYTH: Trafficking requires that a victim be confined or physically unable to leave.

FACT: Trafficking is not only about locking someone into a factory or forcing them to work through threatened or actual physical harm. It also includes situations in which a person is coerced to work. Coercion can include a scheme, plan, or pattern intended to lead a person to believe they would suffer serious harm—including financial and psychological harm—if they did not perform the labor.7 The victim’s individual background and circumstances may be taken into account when evaluating the seriousness of the harm.8 Trafficking may also involve obtaining labor through threatened abuse of the legal process.9 This commonly includes threats to call immigration or the police and have the person deported or arrested if they do not continue working.10

What Remedies Are Available to Victims of Trafficking?

A number of remedies may be available to victims of trafficking:

Prosecution. Trafficking is a crime, and prosecution can punish and deter traffickers. Monetary restitution is available to victims through the criminal process, as well. Trafficking victims may also be eligible for a special protective order.

Immigration Relief. Foreign victims of trafficking and their immediate family members may be eligible for temporary status (Continued Presence) or longer-term visas (T- or U-visas). These visas encourage victims fearful of reprisals and deportation to report the crimes committed against them and to assist with the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers. By providing legal status and work authorization, they also help address underlying poverty and immigration status issues that may make people vulnerable to trafficking or re-victimization.

Social and Legal Services. Victims of trafficking may be eligible for special social services and case management. Regardless of their immigration status, trafficking victims are also eligible for services provided by legal aid offices funded by the Legal Services Corporation.

Civil Lawsuits. Private causes of action exist for trafficking-related offenses, allowing victims to sue for monetary damages.11 Victims also may be able to assert claims under federal and state minimum wage laws, anti-discrimination laws, or to bring contract or tort claims against their trafficker. Civil lawsuits allow victims the opportunity to make their voices heard, to recover compensation, and to deter similar conduct in the future.


There are trafficking victims in Texas, and remedies are available for them.12 Effective identification of and assistance to trafficking victims requires debunking the myths surrounding this crime.

Stacie Jonas is the Lead Attorney for the End Trafficking Today project at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid.

1 Recordings of these hearings are available at http://www.senate.state.tx.us/75r/senate/commit/c820/c820.htm

2 The project will consist of a video and a series of brochures aimed at informing the public about the human trafficking crisis, warnings signs to identify victims of human trafficking, and information on how to take action against human trafficking. TYLA will present the project to audiences both in Texas and across the nation. TYLA hopes to reach diverse groups of people, including professionals in industries that might encounter human trafficking, such as legal and medical professionals, law enforcement, and transit and hospitality personnel. TYLA also plans to present the project to students and teachers in an effort to stop the problem before it begins. To learn more, visit www.tyla.org.

3 Very similar facts resulted in criminal convictions for trafficking. See Buggs v. State, No. 05-07-00676, 2008 Tex. App. LEXIS 1499 (Tex. App.—Dallas Feb. 29, 2008, pet. ref’d) (not designated for publication); Ramos v. State, No. 13-06-00646-CR, 2009 Tex. App. LEXIS 7837 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi Oct. 8, 2009, no pet.) (not designated for publication); United States v. Bradley, 390 F.3d 145 (1st Cir. 2004).

4 This section focuses on the federal definition of trafficking set forth at 22 U.S.C. § 7102(8). Additional federal prohibitions against trafficking and related offenses such as forced labor are also set forth in the TVPRA. See, e.g., 18 U.S.C. §1589, §1590, § 1591, § 1592 (2008). Texas law contains very similar prohibitions. See, e.g., Tex. Pen. Code Ann. § 20A.01, § 20A.02 (2012).    

5 See 22 U.S.C. § 7102 (3) (defining a commercial sex act).

6 See, e.g., Shuvalova v. Cunningham, No. 10-cv-02159, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 135502 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 22, 2010) (upholding claim for forced labor against defendant spouse).

7 See 22 U.S.C. § 7102(2); 18 U.S.C. § 1589(c)(2). As part of such a scheme, a trafficker might also confiscate and refuse to return a person’s identity or immigration documents.

8 See 18 U.S.C. § 1589(c)(2).

9 See 22 U.S.C. § 7102(2); 22 U.S.C. § 7102(5) ; 18 U.S.C. § 1589(c)(1).

10 See, e.g., Catalan v. Vermillion Ranch Ltd., No. 06-cv-01043, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 567, at *23–*24 (D. Colo. Jan. 4, 2007; United States v. Garcia, No. 02-cr-110S-01, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22088, at *23 (W.D.N.Y. Dec. 2, 2003).

11 See, e.g., 18 U.S.C. § 1595 (authorizing private right of action for any TVPRA offense); Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 98.002 (authorizing private right of action for trafficking-related offenses).

12 For more information on trafficking in Texas, see The Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force Report 2011, available at www.oag.state.tx.us/ag_publications/pdfs/human_trafficking.pdf.