VII. United States Government Efforts
The U.S. Government condemns trafficking in persons and remains firmly committed to fighting this scourge and protecting victims who fall prey to traffickers. Our commitment to eradicate trafficking includes:
- Vigorously enforcing U.S. laws against those who traffic in persons;
- Raising awareness about human trafficking and how it can be eradicated;
- Identifying, protecting, and assisting victims exploited by traffickers;
- Reducing the vulnerability of individuals to trafficking through increased education, economic opportunity, and protection and promotion of human rights; and
- Employing diplomatic and foreign policy tools to encourage other nations, the UN, and other multilateral institutions to work with us to combat this crime, draft and enforce laws against trafficking, and hold traffickers accountable.
A compendium of these actions is compiled each year in the Assessment of U.S. Government Activities to Combat Trafficking in Persons, which can be found online at www.usdoj.gov/trafficking.htm. This assessment highlights executive branch efforts to end modern-day slavery and makes recommendations for improvements in our efforts over the next year.
The PROTECT Act
An important aspect of the U.S. effort is to strengthen law enforcement's ability to investigate, prosecute, and punish violent crimes committed against children, including child sex tourism and the commercial sexual exploitation of children. The PROTECT Act (Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to End the Exploitation of Children Today Act of 2003) was passed by the Congress in April 2003 and signed into law by President Bush. The act serves as a historic milestone for protecting children while severely punishing those who victimize young people. Of particular note, the PROTECT Act allows law enforcement officers to prosecute American citizens and legal permanent residents who travel abroad and commercially sexually abuse minors without having to prove prior intent to commit this crime. The law also strengthens the punishment of these child sex tourists. If convicted, child sex tourists now face up to 30 years' imprisonment, an increase from the previous maximum of 15 years.
The PROTECT Act made several other changes to the law with a focus on protecting children from sexual predators, including: extending the statute of limitations for federal crimes involving the abduction or physical or sexual abuse of a child for the lifetime of the child; expanding the potential reach of federal sex trafficking prosecutions by extending federal jurisdiction to crimes committed in foreign commerce; establishing parallel penalty enhancements for the production of child pornography overseas; and, criminalizing actions to arrange or facilitate the travel of child sex tourists.
The U.S. Anti-Trafficking Law
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-386) and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (P.L. 108-193) provide tools to combat trafficking in persons worldwide. The act authorizes the establishment of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and the President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons to assist in the coordination of anti-trafficking efforts.
The Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP Office)
The State Department's TIP Office is mandated to combat and eradicate human trafficking by focusing worldwide attention on the international slave trade; assisting countries to eliminate trafficking in persons; promoting regional and bilateral cooperation; and supporting service providers and NGOs active in trafficking prevention and victim protection efforts. The TIP Office also assists foreign governments in drafting or strengthening anti-trafficking laws and funds law enforcement and victim assistance training to foreign governments to ensure traffickers are fully investigated and prosecuted to final conviction.
The TIP Office supported more than 50 anti-trafficking programs abroad in fiscal year 2004. The types of assistance offered included economic alternative programs for vulnerable groups; education programs; training for government officials and medical personnel; development or improvement of anti-trafficking laws; provision of equipment for law enforcement; establishment or renovation of shelters, crisis centers, or safe houses for victims; support for voluntary and humane return and reintegration assistance for victims; deterrence projects to address the demand for sex trafficking; and support for psychological, legal, medical and counseling services for victims provided by NGOs, international organizations and governments.
Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM)
The State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) promotes orderly and humane migration, protects the human rights of vulnerable migrants, and provides assistance to migrants in need, especially victims of trafficking in persons. The Bureau supports anti-trafficking programs focusing on victim protection.
In fiscal year 2004, PRM provided over $5 million for anti-trafficking initiatives overseas carried out by the Bureau's implementing partner, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and IOM's partner NGOs. Specific activities included repatriation and reintegration assistance for victims; capacity-building to raise awareness, helping national governments manage migration and provide care for victims; and training non-governmental organizations to provide assistance to victims, including mental health care. With PRM support, IOM developed several training modules on related anti-trafficking activities, which were piloted in the Caribbean, in Indonesia, and in Southern Africa over the past year. Additionally, PRM and IOM launched a pilot project to provide logistical and reunification assistance for family members of trafficking victims in the United States who are eligible to come to the United States on a T-2, T-3, or T-4 visa. This project also offers to assist trafficking victims in the United States who wish to return and reintegrate in their home country.
OTHER U.S. AGENCY ACTIVITIES
The TVPA commits U.S. federal agencies to implement programs to protect and assist victims of human trafficking and to capture and prosecute their traffickers.
Victim Assistance and Public Awareness
The success of U.S. Government efforts to combat trafficking in persons centers on protecting and assisting victims. To this end, the TVPA mandates that federally funded or administered benefits and services, such as cash assistance, medical care, food stamps, and housing, be made available for certain non-citizen trafficking victims.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provides certification and eligibility letters for victims that allow them to access most benefits and services comparable to the assistance provided to refugees. These benefits and services include access to social service programs and immigration assistance needed to help victims safely and securely rebuild their lives in the United States. Trafficking victims also are eligible to receive food stamps through the Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service.
From April 2004 and March 2005, HHS identified 228 victims, more than double the 108 victims identified the previous year. In fiscal year 2004, HHS issued 163 letters on behalf of victims, of which 144 were certification letters to adults and 19 were eligibility letters to minors. These certification and eligibility letters, combined with the 151 letters issued in fiscal year 2003, the 99 letters issued in fiscal year 2002, and the 198 letters issued in fiscal year 2001, bring to 611 the total number of letters issued during the first four fiscal years in which the program has operated.
HHS also operates a trafficking information and referral hotline. The hotline allows victims and others persons encountering a victim of trafficking to call a national toll-free number (888-3737-888) to obtain a referral to a local organization serving the victims of trafficking and also to obtain advice on discerning a case of human trafficking. Since April 2004, the hotline has received more than 2,000 calls.
In April 2004, HHS launched its Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking public awareness campaign for the purpose of increasing awareness of human trafficking, particularly among intermediaries. Local anti-trafficking coalitions were convened in ten cities to help disseminate the campaign materials to appropriate intermediaries and to sustain local activism on the trafficking issue. As part of the Rescue and Restore campaign, a Web-based resource was established; through the end of fiscal year 2004, roughly 40,000 people had visited www.acf.hhs.gov/trafficking. The theme of the campaign is "Look Beneath the Surface" in order to communicate that intermediaries may be encountering victims in their daily lives and that they need to look beyond the obvious, asking specific questions or noting certain behaviors of those who may be potential victims.
The goal of the Rescue and Restore campaign is to increase the number of trafficking victims identified. Campaign efforts focus on outreach to intermediaries most likely encounter trafficking victims on a daily basis, but who may not otherwise recognize them. The campaign educates these groups about human trafficking, thus enabling them to screen for trafficking victims and equipping them with tools to assist victims in accessing benefits and services. These intermediaries include local law enforcement; social service providers; health care workers; faith-based organizations; migrant and labor outreach organizations; child and homeless youth advocates and caregivers; and ethnic organizations.
The Department of Justice also met immediate needs of victims of trafficking in persons through witness assistance programs and services provided by the grantees of the Department of Justice's Office for Victims of Crime (OVC). In January 2003, OVC awarded 12 grants totaling more than $9.5 million to NGOs for the purposes of providing trafficking victims with comprehensive or specialized services and to provide these grantees with training and technical assistance for program support. From January through December 2004, OVC awarded ten additional grants totaling more than $5.5 million to expand provision of comprehensive services to victims of human trafficking. OVC administers a total of 18 comprehensive services grants, three supplemental/specialized services grants, and one technical assistance grant.
Comprehensive services grants provide direct services to meet the broad range of needs of trafficking victims, including case management; legal advocacy; medical, dental, and mental health services; shelter; and access to a broad range of job skills training, education, and other social services.
Supplemental or specialized services grants provide a quickly mobilized single service over a broad geographical area, such as housing, legal assistance, and mental health assessment and crisis intervention.
OVC grantees have served a total of 557 victims of human trafficking since the inception of the program in January 2003. OVC grantees also have provided substantive training on trafficking to 24,600 people, including law enforcement officials, prosecutors, civil attorneys, social service providers, physicians, clergy, and other members of their communities. Training topics include the dynamics of trafficking, the legal definition of trafficking under the TVPA, legal rights and services for trafficking victims, and cultural considerations in serving these victims.
Victims of trafficking often need legal assistance with immigration and other matters. Since the passage of the TVPA, the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) must make available legal assistance to trafficking victims. The LSC is a private, non-profit corporation established by Congress to fund legal aid programs around the nation to help indigent Americans gain equal access to the civil justice system. In fiscal year 2004, eight LSC grantees assisted 170 trafficking victims.
There are two immigration benefits available through the TVPA to trafficking victims who meet certain eligibility requirements. Victims may be authorized "continued presence" to temporarily remain in the United States if federal law enforcement determines they are potential witnesses to trafficking.
Victims also may petition the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services within the Department of Homeland Security to receive T visas, which are available to victims who have complied with reasonable requests for assistance to investigate or prosecute acts of trafficking. Victims who receive T non-immigrant status may remain in the United States for three years and then apply for permanent residency.
In fiscal year 2004, the Department of Homeland Security's Vermont Service Center received 520 applications for T non-immigrant status, approved 136, denied 292, and continues to consider 92. Once a trafficking victim has held T non-immigrant status for three years, he or she may apply to adjust status; the first T non-immigrant status recipients will become eligible to adjust status beginning in 2005. The United States is one of the few countries that offers the possibility of permanent residency to victims of trafficking.
Investigations and Prosecutions of Traffickers
In the past four fiscal years (2001-2004), the Department of Justice has initiated more than three times the number of investigations (340 vs. 106), filed almost four times as many cases (60 vs. 16), charged more than twice as many defendants (162 vs. 69), and doubled the number of defendants convicted (118 vs. 59) than in the prior four year period.
In fiscal year 2004, the Department of Justice initiated prosecutions against 59 traffickers, the highest number ever charged in a single year. More than half of those defendants (32) were charged with violations under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, and all of those cases involved sexual exploitation.
An example of a U.S. Government investigation and prosecution is the case of United States v. Carreto, et al. As the result of an investigation based initially upon information from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico, six defendants have been charged with forced labor and organizing and operating a trafficking ring that smuggled Mexican women and girls into the United States and forced them into prostitution in Queens and Brooklyn, New York. The defendants, most of whom are related to each other, come from a small town in south-central Mexico. They recruited young, impoverished women in Mexico by forming romantic relationships with them, with the ultimate goals of smuggling them into the United States and forcing them into prostitution. Once in the United States, the women were beaten and threatened to keep them working. Proceeds from prostitution were taken by the defendants and wire transferred to the defendants' family in Mexico. Three defendants have pleaded guilty to trafficking charges, and a trial is pending as to the remaining defendants.
The U.S. Department of Justice also led a comprehensive initiative to form 20 multi-disciplinary task forces led by U.S. attorneys in various cities across the country to address trafficking in areas of known concentration. Under this initiative, the Department of Justice and its partners, the Departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security, have formed, trained, equipped, and funded teams of state, local, and federal law enforcement, prosecutors, and victim services providers in a coordinated and proactive effort to investigate criminal organizations, rescue victims, and hold perpetrators accountable.
An essential part of the initiative was the convening of a national training conference called Human Trafficking into the United States: Rescuing Women and Children from Slavery, held July 14-16, 2004, in Tampa, Florida. Hosted by the Justice Department, the conference brought together more than 500 attendees composed of 21 teams of about 20 state, local, and federal officials who could work together to combat human trafficking in their respective communities across America. President Bush joined Attorney General John Ashcroft and other senior Bush Administration officials at the conference.
Teams came from 21 municipalities across the United States. The teams learned how to uncover and investigate cases, as well as how to provide services to trafficking victims. The conference emphasized the importance of combating trafficking using a victim-centered approach that requires proactive law enforcement strategies and an understanding of the collaborative approach to human trafficking that includes community members, first responders, restorative care service providers, victim advocates, as well as state, local, and federal law enforcement.
The next step of the initiative was to follow up with attendees, conduct initial task force meetings, provide additional training, and make an announcement of the newly formed task force. Between June and December, task forces were formed in Philadelphia; Atlanta; Phoenix; New Jersey; Northern Virginia; Connecticut; San Francisco; Houston; St. Louis; Tampa; Miami; Orlando; Washington, D.C.; Portland; Albuquerque; Seattle; Las Vegas; San Antonio; El Paso; Los Angeles; and New York.
The final step, initially announced at the national conference by the Attorney General, was the Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs (OJP) and its Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) award of $7,674,614 to 18 communities to participate in the newly formed multi-disciplinary task forces to address the problem of human trafficking and rescue its victims. These 18 communities were among those identified by the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division as having a high number of trafficking operations and victims. These local law enforcement task forces will join forces with victim service providers, as well as with the local U.S. attorneys and other federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security's Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to identify and rescue trafficking victims, including women and children. Applicants were specifically encouraged to partner with service providers supported by existing grants from the OVC or Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement. In early 2005, BJA plans to add three jurisdictions to this list, making the number of funded task forces 21. In turn, OVC, working in partnership with BJA, will make awards to develop victim services at task force sites with insufficient capacity.
All of the task forces are operational, and many have initiated important investigations.
The Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center
In July 2004, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General established the interagency Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center. To emphasize its importance, the Center was established under Section 7202 of the Intelligence Reform Act and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. The Center will achieve greater integration and overall effectiveness in the U.S. Government's enforcement and other response efforts, and work with other governments to address the separate but related issues of alien smuggling, trafficking in persons, and smuggler support of clandestine terrorist travel.
International Grant Activity
The ideal way to combat trafficking is to prevent the victimization of people in the first place. Because the United States is a destination country for trafficked people, prevention activities in which the U.S. Government engages abroad are particularly important.
Through the State Department, the Department of Labor's Bureau of International Labor Affairs, and the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Government offers a substantial amount of international assistance to help prevent trafficking in persons and to improve the treatment of victims and the prosecution of traffickers abroad. The State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons also is piloting programs to address the demand for victims of sex trafficking in Mexico, India, Cambodia, Costa Rica, and Thailand.
In fiscal year 2004, the U.S. Government supported approximately 251 international anti-trafficking programs totaling $82 million* and benefiting more than 86 countries. This amount reflects part of President Bush's anti-trafficking initiative announced at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2003. The Government of the United States has invested approximately $295 million in anti-trafficking efforts over the last four fiscal years. These international programs run the gamut from small projects to large multi-million-dollar projects to develop comprehensive regional and national strategies to combat trafficking, improve law enforcement capacity to arrest and prosecute traffickers, enhance support to victims of trafficking, and increase awareness of at-risk populations and policy makers to trafficking.
Based on U.S. Government findings over many years of international development work, assistance that has had a positive impact on anti-trafficking efforts includes: development or improvement of anti-trafficking laws; provision of equipment for law enforcement; economic alternative programs for vulnerable groups; education programs addressing both the supply and demand sides of trafficking in persons; training for government officials and medical personnel; anti-corruption measures; establishment or renovation of shelters, crisis centers, or safe-houses for victims; establishment of hotlines, support for voluntary and humane return and reintegration assistance for victims; and support for psychological, legal, medical, and counseling services for victims provided by NGOs, international organizations, and governments.
Report on the Worst Forms of Child Labor
The Department of Labor publishes an annual report mandated by the Trade and Development Act of 2000 on efforts governments are taking to meet their international commitments to eliminate the worst forms of child labor, including the trafficking of children for exploitative labor and commercial sexual exploitation. The Trade and Development Act (TDA) added government efforts to address the worst forms of child labor to the list of criteria countries must fulfill to receive trade benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences, the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act, and the African Growth and Opportunity Act. The TDA Report released in 2004 chronicled the nature and incidence of the worst forms of child labor and government efforts to combat this problem in more than 140 countries and territories.
The U.S. Government engages internationally through cooperation with countries that support the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, which supplements the UN Convention Against Transnational and Organized Crime, adopted by the UN General Assembly in November 2000. The United States signed the Convention and Protocol in December 2000, and the President has submitted them to the Senate for advice and consent to ratification.
Three other international instruments that address the trafficking in children have been adopted — ILO Convention 182 concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor (which the United States ratified in February 1999); the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (which the United States ratified in December 2002); and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (which the United States ratified in December 2002). The Department of Labor works with the ILO to bring international attention to countries' obligations under ILO Convention 150, the Abolition of Forced Labor, as well.
Training of NGOs
NGOs have been vital to the U.S. effort to identify and help trafficking victims as well as to prosecute trafficking cases. The U.S. Government engages in extensive outreach to NGOs, which are often the first point of contact with trafficking victims. These contacts foster constructive relationships with groups that receive and shelter trafficking victims and are often in a position to encourage victims to come forward and report abuse. Additionally, in those situations in which law enforcement is actively involved in liberating victims from servitude, some NGOs can provide safe houses for the victims.
U.S. Government personnel have been working closely with NGOs across the country to train service providers on the provisions of the TVPA. Through such training, federal prosecutors, Federal Bureau of Investigation and ICE agents, immigration officials and Health and Human Services' personnel have learned about potential new cases, acquired NGO assistance in procuring refuge and support for trafficking victims, educated NGOs on the requirements for identifying a victim of a severe form of trafficking, and trained service providers on the roles they can play to contribute toward the success of a trafficking investigation and prosecution.
The Department of Labor's International Child Labor Program and the Office of Foreign Relations supported a number of efforts in fiscal year 2004 through nongovernmental and faith-based organizations, as well as the International Labor Organization's International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor, that address trafficking in persons in 16 countries, either as the central focus of the project or a component of a broader project. These projects provide reintegration assistance to adult and child victims of trafficking for exploitive work situations. Project support includes enrollment possibilities in appropriate educational and vocational training programs, and linking adults to legitimate work through partnerships with local employers. Projects promote legislative and policy reform to address trafficking in persons at the local, national, and regional levels.
In the United States, DOL's Employment and Training Administration provides job training grants to states and localities, which may be used to assist victims of severe forms of trafficking regardless of individuals' immigration status. These grants provide job search assistance, career counseling, occupational skills training, and supportive services to eligible participants.
The DOL's Wage and Hour Division is taking aggressive action to identify and eliminate abusive labor practices that affect the most vulnerable in our society. Investigators focus on low-wage industries where labor trafficking victims are most often found. And Wage and Hour staff works with the consulates of Mexico and other countries, along with NGOs, to reach out to immigrant communities.
Senior Policy Operating Group on Trafficking in Persons
In February 2002, President Bush established a Cabinet-level Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. The task force is chaired by the Secretary of State and includes the Attorney General, the Secretary of Labor, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of Central Intelligence, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The Task Force's responsibilities include coordination and implementation of the Administration's anti-trafficking activities. In December 2003, the Task Force approved the formal establishment of the Senior Policy Operating Group on Trafficking in Persons (SPOG), chaired by the director of the State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. The purpose of the SPOG is to bring together senior policy officials from task force member agencies. This year the SPOG was responsible for a number of interagency policy developments including:
- Coordination of U.S. agency strategic plans to address trafficking in persons;
- Development and implementation of interagency grant policy and coordination guidelines to help implement the National Security Presidential Directive on trafficking in persons;
- Coordination of public outreach and research efforts, including bringing attention to the dangers of trafficking in persons in South and Southeast Asia following the tsunami disaster; and
- Coordination of the President's $50 million anti-trafficking initiative.
*Upon review, the Fiscal Year 2004 anti-trafficking in persons (TIP) funding level was revised from $96 million to $82 million because some child labor programs were mistakenly included as anti-trafficking programs in the initial calculation.