New Arizona State Law Provides Civil Remedies for Human Trafficking Victims

March 24, 2021 Updated: March 24, 2021

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on March 23 signed into law a bill that will provide civil remedies for victims of human trafficking.

The legislation, H.B. 2116, is backed by state Attorney General Mark Brnovich and state Rep. Shawnna Bolick, and received unanimous legislative support. It will allow human and sex trafficking victims to take civil action against their perpetrators and anyone else who contributes to their abuse.

“Human and sex trafficking victims can now seek civil remedies against their perpetrators as a result of legislation we worked with [Bolick] to enact. Proud to help survivors obtain justice and help rebuild their lives,” Brnovich said in a Twitter post.

“Society needs to do everything we can to assist victims of this horrific crime and help them rebuild their lives,” he said in a separate statement. “Our office will continue to be at the forefront of obtaining justice for victims of trafficking, and this law provides an additional resource for survivors to hold their traffickers accountable for the lives they’ve thrown into chaos.”

Previously in the state, human and sex trafficking victims were only addressed in criminal statutes and weren’t permitted to take civil action against the perpetrators.

The attorney general’s office said that it has, since 2015, prosecuted or is currently prosecuting 282 cases involving 330 defendants that are connected to sex trafficking, child sex trafficking, sexual exploitation of minors, or illegal enterprises and money laundering in the trafficking arena, such as massage parlors.

Many massage parlors are known to illegally offer sexual services and are commonly staffed by those who have fallen victim to human trafficking rings.

The forced labor and human trafficking industry is estimated to be worth $150 billion worldwide, according to the U.N.’s International Labour Organization.

Republican lawmaker Bolick praised Ducey’s decision to enact the legislation, saying it has been an honor to work with the attorney general and his staff to combat human and sex trafficking in the state.

“Justice for trafficking victims doesn’t end when perpetrators are sentenced for their crimes. This new law allows victims to recover the economic losses they suffered during the time their perpetrators were committing the crime, but more importantly, it addresses the host of related physical and mental damages that occur as a result of being trafficked,” she said in a statement.

Separately on March 23, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said that recent decisions made by the Biden administration on the U.S.–Mexico border are emboldening human traffickers to “ramp up their criminal operations.”

“Recent decisions by your administration are emboldening dangerous cartels, smugglers, and human traffickers to ramp up their criminal operations,” the governor said in a letter (pdf) to the White House. “In many cases, these criminals entice unaccompanied minors into inhumane conditions and expose them to abuse and terror.”