State bill requires human trafficking training at hotels that want government business

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) -- A proposed bill would mandate human trafficking training for hotels if they want to do business with government officials.

The Grand Harbor Hotel in Dubuque on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019. (Charlie Grant, KCRG-TV9)

Democratic Representatives Lindsay James and Chuck Isenhart of Dubuque are co-sponsoring the legislation, House File 455. It was work that people were doing in Dubuque that inspired the bill.

That includes work from Suzie Wright and Mira Mosle, members of the Tri-State Coalition Against Human Trafficking and Slavery.

Wright gave a human trafficking training to the Grand Harbor Hotel in Dubuque. In attendance was Shakita Frelix, a front desk attendant of the hotel. She said it was eye-opening, especially learning how young trafficking victims can be.

"She said it starts from six months up until someone who's in their 40s or 50s, so definitely have to be cautious about every party that comes to the front desk to check in," Frelix said.

Grand Harbor General Manager Steve Geisz said his employees really benefitted from the training.

"You could see mouths drop, and they were pretty alarmed at some of the stats and that it could be happening in our hotel," he said.

Wright said it's important for all hotel staff to be trained, no matter their position.

She said, "Maybe the people who are doing maintenance or the people who are delivering room service, maybe they're going to see something in the room that just seems unusual."

Sister Mira Mosle said the bill is a step in the right direction.

"By tying that education to the usage of these facilities by state agencies, meetings, etc., I think it really puts some teeth into this campaign and that's very exciting," Mosle said.

Wright is working with other hotels in Dubuque to conduct the training.

The bill gives businesses until January 1, 2022, to become certified. It prohibits public funds from being used at hotels that aren't certified.