Austin - Those convicted of human trafficking in Texas will face tougher penalties under legislation passed Wednesday in the state Senate.
The bill, authored by Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, makes it a felony to force children into prostitution, extends the statute of limitations for trafficking crimes and requires anyone convicted of sex trafficking to register as a sex offender.
The legislation also makes life sentences automatic for repeat offenders and creates separate definitions for sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Children who have been forced into prostitution will be allowed certain provisions similar to sexual assault cases under the Texas law.
Advocates of the tougher penalties say the bill is progress on an issue Texas has long been at the forefront of addressing.
Van de Putte called human trafficking a modern-day form of slavery that mostly affects children who may be runaways or come from other states. Last year, more than 100 Texas children were rescued from traffickers.
"This is a business of greed and profit," Van de Putte said. "This bill provides harsher and appropriate penalties for those who would traffick humans for a profit."