Brion Curran

New Rules Discussed to Redefine Charges for Labor Trafficking in Minnesota

Brion Curran
New legislator Brion Curran is co-author of HF42

January 12, 2023 — House File 42 (HF42), which would amend the State of Minnesota’s definition of labor trafficking, as well as the related sentencing guidelines, passed out of the Minnesota House Public Safety and Finance Committee to the House Floor today. This will be the only hearing.

The bill was developed in collaboration between the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office and The Advocates for Human Rights, as well as labor trafficking experts. It addresses “glaring holes in our existing statutes that enable perpetrators to evade the law,” said Rep. Sandra Feist (DFL, 39B), the bill’s author.

The bill also enhances penalties when the victim is under the age of 18, the trafficking occurs for an extended period of time, or the victim suffers bodily harm or death. HF42 is co-authored by new legislator Rep. Brion Curran ((DFL, District 36B).

Three people testified: Susan Crumb, retired Assistant Hennepin County Attorney; Madeline Lohman, associate program director with The Advocates for Human Rights; and Drew Evans, superintendent of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

“Our proposal for amending the criminal statute comes out of our experience prosecuting a labor trafficking case in 2018 in Hennepin County,” said Crumb. “When we looked at the facts of our case, and the language of the statute, we realized … holding perpetrators accountable was really going to be challenging.”

That case was the first time someone had been successfully charged under Minnesota’s labor trafficking law.

According to Crumb, the bill would clarify the language and make it easier for those charged to be convicted as labor traffickers.

Lohman said, “We’ve had cases of agricultural workers on temporary visas, where the trafficker threatened to withhold their visa and force them to pay kickbacks. We’ve had cases where family members, or people in a romantic relationship, are requiring their family member turn over all the money from their job or face serious abuse.”

Rep. Novotny (GOP, District 30B) asked a clarifying question regarding the use of the term ‘blackmail,’ which was changed to ‘reputational harm’ in the proposed bill.

The bill passed out of committee directly to the General Register. It will next be heard on the House Floor.

There is a corresponding bill, though slightly different, in the Minnesota State Senate. Senate File 133 (SF133) has not yet been heard in committee. It has been referred to the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. SF133 is authored by all new senators: Senator Clare Oumou Verbeten (DFL, District 66), Senator Zaynab Mohamed (DFL, District 63), and Senator Heather Gustafson (DFL, District 36).

Human Trafficking in Minnesota: A Report to the Minnesota State Legislature” (2018)

Cirien Saadeh is executive director of The Uptake, a collaborative media partner with Minnesota Women’s Press