BOISE – Idaho legislative leaders agreed Wednesday to form an interim study committee to look into human trafficking in Idaho, including concerns in Boundary County about a polygamous group.
Reps. George Eskridge, R-Dover, and Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, had expressed concerns about the issue, which revolves around whether underage girls are being forced into marriages with much older men, who may already be married.
Bonners Ferry Mayor Darrell Kerby said, “We’re continuing to try to keep our eye on some things.”
He welcomed the legislative committee, which will study the issue over the summer, and possibly hold hearings and recommend legislation next winter.
“So far, there’s a whole lot more questions than answers,” Kerby said. “So I think it’s a great idea, and hopefully we’ll come up with some answers and find out what is the truth, and once we find out if there is truth to it, maybe to apply some resources to it.”
Kerby said representatives of a polygamous group near Creston, B.C., have purchased property in Boundary County.
The mayor of Creston told Kerby that a major rift between segments of the group has left it in turmoil.
“The extent that they’re here and what they’re doing in Boundary County is extremely difficult to know,” Kerby said.
The committee also will look into human trafficking concerns involving child brides from Mexico brought to Canyon County.
Rep. Donna Boe, D-Pocatello, said federal laws targeting human trafficking passed about five years ago, and states now are being asked to pass complementary laws.
House Speaker Bruce Newcomb said, “I didn’t think this was a problem in the state of Idaho until we went to Bonners Ferry. There is trafficking that is going on in this state. … There were real concerns. It probably is something that ought to be pursued.”
At a joint meeting of leadership from both houses and both parties, the leaders voted unanimously to include the human trafficking panel among this year’s interim legislative committees.
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