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New Legislation Gives Victims Of Sex Trafficking Chance At Clean Record

Don Pollard
Governor Kathy Hochul makes an announcement and signs two bills into law at the LGBT Community Center.

Victims of sex trafficking in Central New York and across the state may have a way to wipe their records clean of any criminal offenses they were forced to commit while trafficked. Governor Kathy Hochul marked Transgender Awareness Week by signing an LGBTQ Protection bill that allows victims to apply to get their convictions vacated. This builds on a law then-governor David Paterson signed in 2010.

Senior Director of Safe Horizon’s Anti-Trafficking Program Anita Teekah says that bill was very small in scope.

That only allowed for defendants, who are actually victims of human trafficking, to move to vacate convictions that was related to certain prostitution related offenses. So it didn’t cover all types of crimes that individuals would be forced to commit for their traffickers. 

But many wonder how this bill is related to the LGBTQ community. Teekah says it’s because they are often the people who end up in these situations.

The nature of their sexual orientation, a lot of them are removed from social support systems or abandoned or disowned by families. And so, without those social support systems, they are so much vulnerable to be taken advantage of. 

Teekah and her organization have been working with legal aid, survivor leaders, and other advocates for almost six years to get this bill passed. She says these convictions can stop people’s lives in their tracks.

If you are U.S. citizens or foreign national and you have this criminal record related to your trafficking, there’s a lot you cannot move forward with in your life. And there is even more adverse consequences if you are a foreign national and you’re applying for any form of immigration release.

Teekah points out that there’s no guarantee convictions will be vacated when people apply, but it’s certainly a big step forward.

Saturday is Transgender Day of Remembrance, and the Q center at ACR Health will host a virtual vigil in memory of people murdered due to transphobia.