HB 3536: Empowering Communities Against Illicit Massage Businesses

May 11, 2023

Welcome to our blog series where we’re delving into human trafficking-related policies in the 88th Texas Legislative Session. In this installment, we shed light on House Bill 3536, a crucial piece of legislation introduced by Representative Manuel from District 22. This bill aims to empower landlords and authorities in the fight against illicit massage businesses (IMBs) and human trafficking. Join us as we explore why this bill matters, its potential impact, and the urgent need for its passage.

Understanding the Problem: At first glance, the connection between massage establishments and human trafficking may not be apparent. However, within the massage industry exists a disturbing subset known as illicit massage businesses (IMBs). These establishments operate under the guise of legitimate businesses but serve as a front for illegal activities, including commercial sex and human trafficking. Recent estimates by our data partner, The Network, suggest that there are approximately 13,000 suspected IMBs across the country, representing a staggering $5 billion illicit industry. Texas, in particular, has nearly 10% of these suspected IMBs, with almost 1,300 establishments under scrutiny.

The Role of House Bill 3536: House Bill 3536 seeks to amend the commercial property code to grant landlords the right to reclaim leases if massage establishments are violating code by engaging in illicit activities. By giving landlords the authority to disrupt the business model of IMBs, the bill empowers them to evict tenants engaged in illicit activities, effectively shutting down the massage businesses involved.

Empowering Communities: The significance of House Bill 3536 extends beyond a simple legal mechanism. This bill equips district attorneys, local city ordinances, and advocacy groups with a powerful tool in their fight against the illicit massage industry. By creating an environment where landlords can take swift action, the bill enables communities to combat human trafficking and protect vulnerable individuals trapped within the system. It offers a means to dismantle the infrastructure supporting IMBs, making it more difficult for these illegal businesses to operate and thrive.

Moving Towards a Solution: The encouraging news is that House Bill 3536 is on the verge of becoming law, which would mark a significant step forward in addressing the issue of IMBs and human trafficking. However, the battle is not yet won. While it has made its way through the House and now awaits a vote in the Senate, we urge everyone to stay informed and engaged by signing up for our newsletter. Additionally, keep an eye out for the final video in our policy explainer series, where we will provide a comprehensive recap of the legislative session and reveal the ultimate outcome of HB 3536.

The fight against illicit massage businesses and human trafficking requires a multi-faceted approach, and House Bill 3536 plays a vital role in empowering communities to combat this pervasive problem. By granting landlords the ability to reclaim leases and shut down IMBs, this bill disrupts the operations of illegal establishments and safeguards potential victims. Let's stand together, raise awareness, and support the passage of HB 3536 to create a safer environment for everyone. Together, we can make a difference.