U.S. Government Domestic Anti-Trafficking in Persons Efforts
The U.S. Government (USG) in 2007 continued to advance the goal of eradicating human trafficking in the United States. This coordinated effort includes several federal agencies and approximately $23 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2007 for domestic programs to boost anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, identify and protect victims of trafficking, and raise awareness of trafficking as a means of preventing new incidents.
Recommendations: The USG annually assesses its efforts in a separate report compiled by the Department of Justice (DOJ) [see www.usdoj.gov/olp/human_trafficking.htm]. Among recommendations from the September 2007 assessment, the USG is working to increase cooperation among U.S. agencies to maximize efficiency in services and information dissemination.
The USG sustained anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts over the reporting period. The United States prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons through criminal statutes created or strengthened by the 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), as amended. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2007, DOJ’s Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices initiated 182 investigations, charged 89 individuals, and obtained 103 convictions in cases involving human trafficking. Under the TVPA, traffickers can be sentenced to up to 20 years’ imprisonment. The average prison sentence imposed for trafficking crimes under the TVPA in FY 2007 was 113 months (9.4 years). The Federal Bureau of Investigation and DOJ’s Criminal Division continued to combat the exploitation of children in prostitution in the United States through the Innocence Lost National Initiative; in FY 2007, this Initiative resulted in 308 arrests, 106 convictions, and 181 recovered children.
The federal government worked to bolster efforts at state and local levels. By the end of 2007, 33 states had passed criminal anti-trafficking legislation. In 2007, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) further strengthened the Rescue & Restore Regional Program, employing a community-based intermediary model to regionally develop civil society networks for outreach, identification, and service activities.
The USG continued to provide strong victim protection services over the year. Through FY 2007, HHS certified or issued eligibility letters to 1,379 victims of human trafficking since the TVPA was signed into law in October 2000. HHS certified 270 adult victims in FY 2007, and issued eligibility letters to 33 minors. Thirty percent of the total 303 victims were male, a significant increase from the six percent male victims certified in FY 2006. Certified victims came from over 50 countries globally and at least 63 percent of them were victims of trafficking for forced labor. Primary sources in FY 2007 of victims were Thailand (48), Mexico (42), Guatemala (25), Philippines (23), and China (21). Certification and letters of eligibility allow human trafficking survivors to access services and benefits, comparable to assistance provided by the U.S. to refugees. The HHS Per-Capita Services Contract implemented by civil society partners currently covers 125 sites across the country providing “anytime, anywhere” services to human trafficking victims.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provides two principal types of immigration relief authorized by the TVPA: 1) continued presence (CP) to human trafficking victims who are potential witnesses during investigation or prosecution, and 2) T non-immigrant status or “T-visas,” a special, self-petitioned visa category for trafficking victims. In FY 2007, DHS/ICE’s Law Enforcement Parole Branch approved 122 requests for CP and five requests for extensions of existing CPs. DHS U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued 279 T-visas to foreign survivors of human trafficking in the U. S. and 261 T-visas to their immediate family members in FY 2007. The USG continues to work towards publishing a regulation for the adjustment of status for qualified T-visa holders, creating a pathway for citizenship.
As part of the assistance provided under the TVPA, the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration funds the Return, Reintegration, and Family Reunification Program for Victims of Trafficking. In calendar year 2007, the program assisted 104 cases. Of the cases assisted, five victims of trafficking elected to return to their country of origin, and 99 family members were reunited with trafficking survivors in the United States. Since its inception in 2005, the program has assisted around160 persons from 31 countries.
Prevention efforts increased over the year, as HHS continued to fund the Rescue & Restore public awareness campaign and DHS/ICE produced a new public service announcement in multiple languages. HHS founded four additional Rescue & Restore coalitions. HHS restructured the National Human Trafficking Resource Center in 2007 to provide national training and technical assistance, in addition to operating a national hotline (1-888-3737-888). To improve identification and increase awareness, HHS also started: 1) a pilot program to identify trafficking among unaccompanied alien children; and 2) a domestic notification pilot program that provides suspected U.S. citizen trafficking victims with information regarding the benefits and services for which they may be eligible simply by virtue of their citizenship.