FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE) – When Arien Garcia escaped her sex trafficker years ago, she returned home to Fresno, and says the one thing she wanted was a normal life with a meaningful job.
“I wanted to be able to support myself. I wanted to be able to work hard,” she said.
But her desire to work hard was met by rejection. Even after she became a certified EMT, Garcia says she was turned away by employers because of the misdemeanor charges on her record. Charges that exist not because of a life she chose, but a life she was forced into.
“The first time I got arrested, I was scared and I wanted to go home. I got a severe beating and I learned very quickly that this was the life you’re a part of. There’s no escape from it,” she said.
It’s stories like hers that inspired Assembly Bill 262, which would:
- Purge survivors’ records of non-violent offences within 90 days of a judge’s order instead of one year
- Eliminate the requirement for survivors to pay fees before a court hearing to clear their record
- Allow survivors to ask the court to clear their record at any time
“For so many survivors who have been trafficked, a clean record is the last and highest hurdle to their freedom,” said Assemblymember Jim Patterson.
Garcia, who is now the program manager for the Central Valley Justice Coalition and is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in justice studies, says this bill could help end the revolving door of victims who find themselves back on the streets because of repeated rejection from employers.
“You want food, you want shelter, you want meaningful housing. What do you do? You get a job. If you can’t get into a McDonalds or a Walmart and get your feet into the workplace – how do you climb from there?” she said.
The bill passed unanimously on the assembly floor and the senate. It now awaits the governor’s approval.