By Longview News Journal

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn unveiled legislation in Longview on Sunday to give agencies that are battling sex trafficking a funding source in their effort to return young women to normal life.

“It’s been called, I think properly, modern-day slavery,” the Texas Republican said at a news conference at the Longview Police Department.

In introducing the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, Cornyn and Police Chief Don Dingler were joined by leaders of four leader organizations who said they lack options when a sex slave is taken off the street.

“We have to do more than that,” said Norma Mullican of Palestine, who plans a safe home called Refuge of Light. “We want to do it the right way.”

Mullican, whose nonprofit group is called Voice to End Slavery, said the group has raised $460,000 to build its safe home but lacks money to run it. Similar homes across the country spend $175 to $225 a day per child, she said, estimating Refuge of Light will cost at least $400,000 a year to operate.

“So we’re thrilled with this piece of legislation,” she said.

The bill, which is being sponsored in the U.S. House of Representatives by Kingwood Republican Ted Poe, funnels fees from prosecution of sex traffickers into a fund from which law enforcement and anti-sex trade agencies can draw.

“Organizations like these here today have done a great job,” Cornyn said. “They operate mostly off of donations. This legislation is to provide a pool of funds for grants.”

Kenny Rigsby, co-founder of For The Silent, said he and his wife travelled to Cambodia and Thailand when they learned that sexual slavery was a modern phenomenon. He and Julie Rigsby returned home to East Texas only to learn it was happening here, he said, describing online sites where women are advertised under the loose guise of a dating page.

“Upwards of 20 to 30 ads were being placed every weekend,” he said, adding the couple reached out to girls in the Smith County juvenile justice system.

Those girls usually were working for an older man they believed to be their boyfriend, he said.

For The Silent also relies solely on donations.

Cornyn said his bill has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee of which he is a member.

Ten senators and 54 House members, 10 of those from Texas, have signed on as co-sponsors. Sen. Ted Cruz and Northeast Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert are not co-sponsors.