Survivors and Advocates’ Open Letter to Attorney General Kamala Harris

Anti human trafficking organizations and survivor advocates in California are calling Attorney General Kamala Harris to uphold her initial agreement to appeal the landmark Prop 35 case (Doe vs. Harris) while working on legislative amendments. Here is our open letter to the AG.

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February 12, 2015

 

Dear Attorney General Harris:

 

California is one of the top four locations in the nation for human trafficking and should be an issue of top priority. An astonishing 72% of victims identified in California between 2010 and 2012 were born in the United States. On your website, you describe how traffickers use online tools like social media and other digital technology to recruit victims and communicate with customers, and that law enforcement need digital tools to “monitor, collect, and analyze online data and activities” in an effort to provide a valuable digital trail to “prevent and disrupt human trafficking online.”

Proposition 35, which passed with a historical 81% of support from Californian voters, not only requires convicted sex traffickers to register as sex offenders, but for sex offenders to register their online identifiers with law enforcement. These provisions give law enforcement needed tools to monitor and track sex offenders in the interest of public safety – the very purpose of the sex offender registry. By providing internet identifiers to law enforcement, they will be able to monitor, collect, and analyze data and activities, and make the internet a safer place. These provisions hold offenders accountable for their actions and activity online.

We ask that you not surrender to sex offenders and their demands. We strongly urge you to uphold your initial agreement to pursue a parallel track: appeal the landmark Prop 35 case (Doe vs. Harris) while working on legislative amendments.

First, it is uncertain whether the legislative amendments will satisfy the Ninth Circuit Court’s ruling as they never made a decision on whether sex offenders have rights to uncontrolled anonymous speech online.

Second, we do have a high chance of winning at the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a similarly flawed Ninth Circuit ruling on Alaska’s sex offender statute.  As part of that ruling, it stated:

The fact that Alaska posts the information on the Internet does not alter our conclusion. It must be acknowledged that notice of a criminal conviction subjects the offender to public shame, the humiliation increasing in proportion to the extent of the publicity. And the geographic reach of the Internet is greater than anything which could have been designed in colonial times. These facts do not render Internet notification punitive. The purpose and the principal effect of notification are to inform the public for its own safety, not to humiliate the offender. Widespread public access is necessary for the efficacy of the scheme, and the attendant humiliation is but a collateral consequence of a valid regulation.”

Third, this case potentially can put federal and other state laws in jeopardy. We must exhaust every possible tool to win.

We all hold a common vision to bring perpetrators of human trafficking to justice, and to prevent and protect victims of this unspeakable crime – including the 81% of voters that voted in favor of the provisions under Proposition 35. That’s why it is imperative that the provisions of Proposition 35 are upheld. Traffickers need a clear message that the internet will no longer be a place where they can hide under the veil of anonymity and prey freely upon unwitting victims.

We strongly urge you to file the extension on the landmark Prop 35 case, Doe vs. Harris.

 

Sincerely,

Daphne Phung
Founder/Executive Director
California Against Slavery

Linda Smith (U.S. Congress 1995-99)
President/Founder
Shared Hope International

Autumn Burris
Founder/Director, Survivor Advocate
Survivors for Solutions

Leah J. Albright-Byrd
Executive Director/Founder, Survivor Advocate
Bridget’s Dream

Carissa Phelps
Founder/CEO, Survivor Advocate
Runaway Girl

Rachel Thomas, M. Ed
Co-Founder, Survivor Advocate
Sowers Education Group

Kathi Hardy
Founder/Executive Director, Survivor Advocate
Freedom From Exploitation

Peggy Fava
Founder/Director
Bridge-Network

Debbie Johnson
Founder/CEO
Without Permission, Inc.

Wendy Dailey, Co-Founder
International Sanctuary

Ginger Shaw, Director
Free Them Road

Rosario Dowling, Founder
Burning Bush Moments

Virginia Chambers &
Caroline Bruister
Co-Chairs
Junior Leagues of California State Public Affairs Committee

Dr. Stephany Powell
Executive Director
Mary Magdalene Project