Lewiston, Idaho -- Fearful of a burgeoning polygamous community and rumours of child brides in Boundary County, Idaho, legislators have agreed to form a committee to study human trafficking in the state.
"I didn't think this was a problem in the state of Idaho until we went to Bonners Ferry," Speaker Bruce Newcomb of the state legislature told a meeting of Idaho's political leadership.
Newcomb and the other representatives visited Boundary County leaders, who said the wives of a religious group in Bountiful, B.C., are spilling out of Canada and into Idaho to apply for public assistance. The group is believed to be polygamous and associated with a similar group in Hildale, Utah, legislators said. The legislature is concerned the two groups may be trading child brides.
"We're continuing to try to keep our eye on some things," said Bonners Ferry Mayor Darrell Kerby.
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."
The committee also will look into human-trafficking concerns involving child brides from Mexico taken to Canyon County.
Southern Idaho legislators are concerned about reports in the Nampa area of men bringing home wives from other countries and then exploiting them for prostitution or slave labour.
It's human trafficking if people are "forced to remain but brought under false circumstances," said state Representative Donna Boe, who co-sponsored the study proposal. She said U.S. laws targeting human trafficking passed about five years ago and the states are being asked to pass complementary laws.