FALSE: Child trafficking is legal in the US

FALSE: Child trafficking is legal in the US

31 August 2023

Verification within Meta’s Third-Party Fact-Checking Program

On August 16, the network began to spread information that California had blocked a bill that would make trafficking in minors a serious crime. The authors point out that California leads in the number of cases of child trafficking. They add that this policy is consistent, since on the second day after coming to the White House, Joseph Biden allegedly canceled the decree of his predecessor Donald Trump, which allowed to fight child trafficking in the United States. So, American law allows for the trafficking of children.

Screenshot of the post

However, this is false. Child trafficking is punishable by law in the United States. At the time the post was published on social networks, the Democrats unblocked the consideration of the draft law, and the document was sent to the Appropriations Committee for consideration. Biden did not cancel the decree aimed at combating child trafficking.

In December 2022, Republican Senator Shannon Grove filed a bill to make child trafficking a serious crime in California. According to state law, if a person is convicted of 3 serious felonies (in a lifetime), they face 25 years to life in prison. The state Senate approved the bill, but Democrats voted against the changes during a hearing in the House Public Safety Committee on July 11. Assemblyman Isaac Bryan argued that the bill could harm victims by sentencing them to life in prison. While some people may have been coerced into trafficking minors by threats or violence. He also added that longer terms will not reduce the number of crimes committed. The politician noted that the current law already contains punishment in the form of life imprisonment, but it does not apply to all persons involved in child trafficking.

Under current California law, trafficking in minors is punishable by up to 12 years in prison. At the same time, sexual exploitation of a minor, which is accompanied by coercion, deception, intimidation, can lead to imprisonment for 15 years or up to life.

The office of Assembly Public Safety Committee Chairman Reggie Jones-Sawyer released a statement on July 11 that committee members had given permission to reconsider the document, but it needs to be revised because the bill is ineffective in its current form. According to Reggie Jones-Sawyer, the document could criminalize victims of human trafficking and children. In her turn, the initiator of changes to the law, Grove, said that she will not change the bill, as the text has already been adopted by the Senate.

On July 12, California Governor Gavin Newsom stepped in to reopen the bill. He noted that he was surprised that the document was not adopted and said that he had spoken with Grove about possible ways to resolve the issue. Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas also promised to “fix it.”

On July 13, Assemblywoman Liz Ortega said she made the wrong decision by voting against the bill. On the same day, another vote was held, during which 4 Democrats out of 6 changed their decision in favor of passing the bill. On August 16, the draft law was supposed to be considered by the Committee on Appropriations of the Assembly, but at the time of writing, there is no information on the further progress of the document.

California regularly records the highest number of human trafficking cases, but this state has the largest number of citizens, so absolute numbers cannot be compared. As of 2021, the state of Mississippi was the leader in terms of the highest number of recorded cases of human trafficking per 100,000 population.

The information that Joseph Biden canceled the decree aimed at combating child trafficking in the United States is false. In January 2020, Trump signed an executive order to combat human trafficking and the online exploitation of children in the United States. The document called for the White House Domestic Policy Council to appoint a staff member to work on anti-trafficking issues. However, Biden did not revoke Trump’s executive order aimed at combating child trafficking. Under American law, the president cannot change or revoke the executive orders of his predecessor, but must instead issue a new executive order.

In 2021, Biden signed the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, which expanded the authority of the Center to Combat Human Trafficking (CCHT), increased the center’s staffing, and continued a public awareness initiative to combat human trafficking.


The authors do not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have no relevant affiliations