She was just 16, lured from Kentucky by a 23-year-old Bay Area man who sent her a bus ticket and a promise of a new life in California. Little did she realize that she was about to become a victim of the most insidious form of human trafficking: sex trafficking. Tragically, new legislation passed by the California legislature threatens to make the problem of underage human trafficking much worse and embolden predators.
Signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newson, SB 145 reduces the penalties for adults who have sexual relations with minors – even as young as 14-years-old -- just as long as the adult is within 10 years of age. The law places discretionary powers into the judge’s hands as to whether or not to compel the predator to register as a sex offender.
Gov. Newsom’s new law protecting child sex offenders raises the specter of human trafficking in the United States, noted as the world’s top destination for the crime. And California, with its large immigrant communities, extensive international border, ports and airports, is considered one of the top four destinations in America for human trafficking. In 2018, 1,656 cases of human trafficking were reported in California, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Of those cases, 1,226, or 74 percent, were sex trafficking cases.
The author of SB 145 said, “We need to stop criminalizing teenage sex,” in a bit of misdirection. “At a minimum, we should not be forcing these kids onto the sex-offender registry and ruining their lives.” In fact, the new law does nothing to help minors, gay or straight. Both girls and boys will be even less safe. The law’s real focus actually extends new protections to adults who prey upon teenagers. Stephanie Myers of Saved In America, a group opposed to SB 145 and dedicated putting a stop sex trafficking, clarifies that “children, when they are trafficked, they are lured.”
There are ramifications beyond allowing a 24-year-old to have relations with a 14-year-old without legal recrimination. Beating the wrap of a sex offender list would enable predators to live within our communities without residents’ knowledge or law enforcement’s watchful eye. Worse, they would be in the position to bait additional victims. Meanwhile, the burden of prosecuting perpetrators may become more challenging.
The very fact that this bill was even introduced, debated on, passed and signed into law by the governor strains belief. One could not ask for a more disturbing demonstration of what happens when the fringe gains complete control over a political party and is able to dictate even the most obscene and nonsensical policies. A maxim in American political culture holds that “As goes California, so goes the nation.” Sadly, cities and states controlled by the far-left may well try duplicate California’s example in passing SB 145.
Another mind-boggling aspect of SB 145 is that with California in the state of full-fledged crisis, this odious bill somehow became a legislative priority.
Outrageous housing costs are a primary factor in driving up household budgets, and for those out of work, California has paused all unemployment checks due. Yet Newsom deflects responsibility and makes excuses. The largest wildfires in California’s history still ravage the state, but the governor is more content to pin the blame on one part of the problem rather than seriously address the state’s failed forestry management practices. Rolling blackouts as a result of an overreliance on renewable energy sources continue to dog residents. Violence has gone unchecked and homelessness goes unaddressed while California leads the nation in poverty.
Neither the state legislature nor the governor accorded any of those pressing issues with the same focus and urgency as a law giving a legal advantage to sex crime offenders. That typifies why so many families are choosing to leave California. It’s an embarrassing black mark that should embarrass political officials who brought this upon the state. The good news is that bad policies and poor leadership can be reversed. We need solutions, not excuses – and that includes a fix that closes the 10-year gap loophole for all sex offenders, and creation of an air armada to attack and defeat out of control wildfires in the years to come.
John Cox is the founder of C.H.A.N.G.E. CA and a former gubernatorial candidate.