HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Passed in the Texas Senate on May 31, 2021, and signed by Governor Gregg Abbott on June 16, anti-human trafficking advocates, said House Bill 1540 is a huge step in combating this illicit crime.

“I did not know I would be confronted with this,” said a human trafficking survivor who asked to keep her identity concealed.

This survivor referred to sex trafficking; she was forced into prostitution after crossing the Rio Grande. Though she remains anonymous she said her story needs to be heard.

“I was trapped for a long time there without being able to go outside, without eating, without water,” said the survivor.

The survivor said she was from Guatemala and had to leave her children behind. She said she came looking for a better life but was not prepared for what came next.

“I was a victim of sexual abuse, of sex trafficking, but I am here,” she said.

Women who worked willingly as prostitutes learned she was being held against her will and wanted to help her, according to the survivor. She said they told her to become familiar with a location, gave her a phone, and set up a meeting point to save her.

“Then I familiarized myself with the flea market because that is where they were going to pick me up,” said the survivor.

From that point forward, the Refugee Services of Texas supported her and helped her find resources.

Area director, Lisa Pacheco, said they educate law enforcement on how to recognize signs of human trafficking.

“You know we also provide training for them and educate them on what we’re seeing as far as human trafficking, and also that many times these victims are not going to disclose their story right away,” said Pacheco.

Juan Cano, one of the Chairs for the Rio Grande Valley Anti Human Trafficking Taskforce, said that House Bill 1540 will work as a deterrent to those who want to buy sex.

“Back in the days basically you would get a fine,” said Cano. “It gives law enforcement another way to charge those who are purchasing sex. What it does it basically enhances and it goes to a state felony which is entitled to jail time.”

House Bill 1540 takes effect on Sept. 1, 2021.