AG Balderas aims to close sex offender loophole in New Mexico

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Human trafficking is a complicated crime, most recently highlighted on the national stage. Just last month Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted of sex trafficking charges related to the Jeffery Epstein case.

That case is helping to highlight flaws in New Mexico’s system. Attorney General Hector Balderas wrote to the governor Thursday saying the state’s laws allowed Epstein to prey on victims in New Mexico.

Balderas said now is the time to close those loopholes. He said the way to do that is through the state legislature this session.

He said just because someone is convicted of a trafficking charge somewhere else does not mean they automatically have to register as a sex offender here in New Mexico – that’s the problem.

In a letter sent to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Attorney General Hector Balderas said he’s been fighting to “end the blight of human trafficking” in New Mexico.

He refers to the last two legislative sessions where they worked with lawmakers to draft a compressive bill to close loopholes and strengthen trafficking laws in New Mexico.

“That’s a horrible black eye that we can have trafficking criminals convicted in other states, but there are certain crimes that we don’t require them to report with the department of public safety,” said Attorney General Balderas. “That has to change.”

He said the Jeffery Epstein case is a prime example. After he was convicted on trafficking/prostitution charges in Florida years back, he was able to come to New Mexico without having to register in the database.

“New Mexico did not require his conviction to be registered as a sex offender. That law needs to change. I do think with the recent conviction in the Epstein case the legislature will be more open to that,” said Balderas.

The legislation filed in the 2021 session would have addressed that. Requiring information for criminals convicted of human trafficking, and it further defined required restitution for victims.

“We’re writing to the governor,” Balderas said. “The governor is very committed. Public safety is a top priority. I firmly believe though you cannot truly attack crime, if you also do not close up some of these sexual exploitation crimes as loopholes.”

Advocates said this is something that needs attention. The attorney general said he is still hopeful it could gain some momentum ahead of the legislative session.