New Bill to Protect More Victims of Sexual Exploitation in New Mexico

New Bill to Protect More Victims of Sexual Exploitation in New Mexico

By Alicia Neaves
NewsWest 9

Victims of child predators in New Mexico will have more protection. A new law that passed closes some concerning loopholes.

House Bill 101 amends what's known as the Sexual Exploitation of Children Act. According to Representative David Gallegos of Eunice, there was a giant loophole in that law that needed to be closed so children of all ages can be protected.

Before Tuesday, only children ages 13 to 16 were protected by law in New Mexico. That raised concerns with representatives of the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department. A specific story proved there was a giant loophole in the law.

"This grandmother was caught multiple times prostituting her granddaughter to a neighbor for drugs and the child was four years old. It flat broke my heart," said U.S. Rep. of District 61, David Gallegos of New Mexico.

That inspired change; To extend protection to all children under 16, deemed House Bill 101.

"It's just one of those things that you'd think our kids would already be protected," said Gallegos.

In the final minutes of the 2015 legislative session, Congress voted unanimously to pass the bill.

"[I was] ready to cry," said Gallegos.

Gallegos also worked to pass Erin's Law last year. This asks all schools to teach kids how to identify inappropriate touching.

"Without that contact, without the trust from the teacher to the student, there is nowhere for that child to go to," said Gallegos.

Now, more people who exploit children by prostitution, or make a profit from it, will land themselves in jail.

These changes go into effect July 1.