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San Diego leaders push to repeal state law decriminalizing loitering for prostitution

Mayors, police and anti-human trafficking advocates came together in San Diego county Thursday with one goal in mind — repealing Senate Bill 357, which decriminalizes loitering for the intent to sell sex.

The Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition’s Marisa Ugarte had some strong words about the bill.

“SB 357 is a smokescreen, and it was the beginning of a test to legalize prostitution all over,” she said.


Earlier this week a large sting operation led to over 48 arrests in San Diego and National City. Police said eight teenagers — ranging in age from 13 to 17 — were victims of a human trafficking operation.

Advocate Shane Harris said the bill puts youth, and particularly those in foster care, at a higher risk for sexual exploitation.

“Not only did it make it difficult for law enforcement to seek out and deal with human trafficking and prostitution rings, but it has made it difficult for children to be defended. Because for those who were perpetrating, it defended them,” Harris said.

But attorney Parisa Ijadi-Maghsoodi said the bill is intended to help people report exploitation and protect women, people of color and the LGBTQ community from harassment by authorities.

So she wants to see data that the bill is ineffective.


“That outcry doesn't hold water,” the poverty and civil rights attorney said. “The reason for that is we need to ensure that individuals feel secure in seeking help without fear of incarceration, without fear of a criminal record, without fear of having your kids taken away or losing your home.”

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan and National City Police Chief Jose Tellez said traffickers have become more brazen since the passage of SB 357.

Ugarte worries the bill could lead to more people being trapped in sex work or sex trafficking.

“Slavery is not work. Enslaving a child that cannot consent is a travesty of justice. A woman that is enslaved because of economic violence or gender inequality is slavery,” she said.

Harris said he issued a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, Senate President Pro-Tem Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon calling for the repeal of the law.

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