The United States of America
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Tier 1
The United States is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, transgender individuals, and children—both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals—subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Trafficking occurs in both legal and illicit industries, including in commercial sex, hospitality, sales crews, agriculture, fishing, manufacturing, janitorial services, construction, restaurants, health and elder care, salon services, fairs and carnivals, peddling and begging, and domestic service. Individuals who entered the United States with and without legal status have been identified as trafficking victims. Government officials, companies, and NGOs have expressed concern about the risk of human trafficking in global supply chains, including in federal contracts. Victims originate from almost every region of the world; the top three countries of origin of federally identified victims in fiscal year (FY) 2015 were the United States, Mexico, and the Philippines. Particularly vulnerable populations in the United States include: children in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems; runaway and homeless youth; American Indians and Alaska Natives; migrant laborers, including participants in visa programs for temporary workers; foreign national domestic workers in diplomatic households; persons with limited English proficiency; persons with disabilities; and LGBTI individuals. NGOs noted an increase in cases of traffickers targeting victims with disabilities and by using drugs or withholding medication to coerce victims into prostitution. Some U.S. citizens engage in child sex tourism in foreign countries.
The U.S. government fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The federal government continued to investigate and prosecute both sex and labor trafficking, but prosecuted more sex trafficking cases than labor trafficking cases. For the third year in a row, it provided specialized and comprehensive services to a greater number of trafficking victims and increased funding levels for these services. It continued to provide various types of immigration relief for foreign national victims, including a pathway to citizenship. Federal authorities increased the use of Continued Presence, which allows victims to remain in the United States temporarily during the investigation of their traffickers, and granted Certification Letters to more victims. The government enhanced its outreach to and engagement with survivors to improve training, programs, and policies on human trafficking. The government took steps to better protect domestic workers employed by foreign diplomats in the United States and U.S. diplomats abroad. Prevention efforts included outreach to increase awareness about trafficking and continued funding for an NGO-operated national hotline and referral service. Challenges remain: NGOs urged more consistent, victim-centered implementation of anti-trafficking laws and policies, including increased efforts to ensure more trafficking victims have timely access to services and immigration relief. Furthermore, NGOs reported instances of trafficking victims being detained or prosecuted for criminal activity related to their trafficking, notwithstanding “safe harbor” laws in some states or the federal policy that victims should not be penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE UNITED STATES:
Increase prosecution of cases involving nonviolent forms of coercion and labor trafficking cases, including cases in the U.S. insular areas; support comprehensive services, including increased access to appropriate housing for all trafficking victims, including male and LGBTI victims; increase formal partnerships with victim service providers to improve the continuum of care; increase use of trauma-informed screening to improve identification of trafficked persons among vulnerable populations; continue to improve coordination of services across federal agencies; increase efforts to identify child victims of labor trafficking; integrate anti-trafficking efforts within multiple systems of care, including health, runaway and homeless youth, and domestic violence programs; ensure that criminal restitution is sought for trafficking victims; ensure necessary safeguards for unaccompanied children to prevent their exploitation and trafficking while in care; strengthen prevention efforts, including by addressing the demand for commercial sex and labor trafficking; enforce federal acquisition regulations aimed at preventing trafficking in federal contracts and increase transparency related to any remedial action against federal contractors; strengthen coordination among criminal justice and social service systems, especially as it concerns LGBTI individuals; increase training for tribal, state, and local agencies on victim identification, access to services, and eligibility for benefits, including immigration benefits; ensure federal law enforcement officials apply in a timely manner for, and state and local law enforcement officials are trained on requesting, Continued Presence for eligible victims; and consider federal legislation to allow victims to vacate federal convictions that are a direct result of being subjected to trafficking, and encourage state and local jurisdictions to do the same.
The U.S. government continued to demonstrate progress in federal anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), as amended, prohibits all forms of human trafficking. U.S. law also prohibits conspiracy and attempts to violate these provisions, as well as obstructing their enforcement and benefitting financially from these acts. Sex trafficking prosecutions involving children do not require proof of the use of force, fraud, or coercion. Additionally, a criminal statute on fraud in foreign labor contracting prohibits the use of fraud to recruit workers for work performed in the United States or elsewhere on a U.S. government contract, U.S. property, or military installation. Penalties prescribed under these statutes are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious offenses: penalties can include up to life imprisonment. The U.S. Congress passed several bills during the reporting period that address trafficking. In May 2015, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA) became law, allowing survivors formal input in federal anti-trafficking policy; providing incentives for states to enact laws to prevent the prosecution of child victims for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking; and amending the federal definition of child abuse and neglect to include trafficking. The JVTA provided additional bases of criminal liability for those who patronize or solicit trafficking victims for commercial sex, and created a new offense prohibiting the advertising of sex trafficking activity. It also clarifies that traffickers in child sex trafficking cases who had a reasonable opportunity to observe the victim can no longer claim ignorance about a victim’s age as a defense.
In February 2016, President Obama signed into law the International Megan’s Law to Prevent Child Exploitation and Other Sexual Crimes Through Advanced Notification of Traveling Sex Offenders, which authorized the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to inform foreign governments when registered sex offenders are visiting their countries, and to receive information when they come to the United States from abroad. The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, also enacted in February 2016, eliminated an exception that had allowed imports into the United States of goods produced with forced labor in circumstances when U.S. consumer demand was not met by U.S. domestic production.
DOJ, DHS, and the Department of State (DOS) are the primary investigating agencies for federal trafficking offenses, with federal human trafficking cases prosecuted by DOJ. In December 2015, DOJ, DHS, and the Department of Labor (DOL) named six new Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team (ACTeam) cities, a second-phase expansion of an initiative that helped the first-phase pilot cities significantly increase prosecutions and convictions of traffickers as compared to non-ACTeam districts. The second phase of the ACTeams also expanded victim witness support. DOJ funded 16 Enhanced Collaborative Model (ECM) anti-trafficking taskforces, comprising federal, state, and local law enforcement; victim service providers; and other partners. NGOs praised the ECM taskforce model for its formal inclusion of victim service providers and recommended all federally-funded taskforces do the same.
The federal government reports its law enforcement data by fiscal year (FY)(October 1 through September 30). In FY 2015, DHS reported opening 1,034 investigations possibly involving human trafficking, an increase from 987 in FY 2014. DOJ formally opened 802 human trafficking investigations, a decrease from 835 in FY 2014, and DOJ’s ECM taskforces separately initiated 1,011 investigations. DOS reported opening 175 human trafficking-related cases worldwide during FY 2015, an increase from 154 in FY 2014. The Department of Defense (DoD) reported investigating at least 10 human trafficking-related cases involving U.S. military personnel, compared to 14 in FY 2014.
DOJ initiated a total of 257 federal human trafficking prosecutions in FY 2015, charging 377 defendants. Of these prosecutions, 248 involved predominantly sex trafficking and nine involved predominantly labor trafficking, although some involved both. These figures represent an increase from FY 2014, during which DOJ brought 208 prosecutions charging 335 defendants.
During FY 2015, DOJ secured convictions against 297 traffickers, compared with 184 convictions obtained in FY 2014. Of these, 291 involved predominantly sex trafficking and six involved predominantly labor trafficking, although several involved both.
These prosecutions and convictions include cases brought under trafficking-specific criminal statutes and related non-trafficking criminal statutes, but do not include child sex trafficking cases brought under non-trafficking statutes. Penalties imposed on convicted traffickers ranged from five years to life imprisonment. NGOs continued to call on federal prosecutors to vigorously seek mandatory restitution for victims of trafficking.
During the reporting period, one NGO reported an increase in labor trafficking cases in some jurisdictions and increased federal coordination on labor trafficking cases. NGOs continued to report, however, that federal, tribal, state, and local authorities did not vigorously investigate labor trafficking cases and called for more systematic efforts to prioritize forced labor prosecutions. Further, advocates reported state and local law enforcement demonstrate uncertainty regarding their authority over forced labor cases and called for formal structures to increase the identification of such cases.
In addition to federal laws, state laws form the basis of most criminal actions, which makes adoption of state anti-trafficking laws key to institutionalizing concepts of compelled service for local police officers. Even though at least 34 states have “safe harbor” laws, NGOs reported most of these states did not provide victims immunity for prostitution offenses and reported trafficking victims faced criminalization for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking. While some states already had vacatur or expungement laws, several others introduced or began considering these laws to reduce the harm to victims. Other states created specialized courts for cases involving minors; however, advocates were divided on the effectiveness of these courts.
NGOs continued to ask for more specific, easily accessible data on federal, state, and local trafficking prosecutions. NGOs reported that prosecutors use non-trafficking laws with more lenient penalties in many jurisdictions to secure convictions against traffickers. Although NGOs noted an increase in law enforcement efforts to investigate traffickers who manipulate drug addiction as a form of coercion, advocates called for increased prosecution of trafficking cases involving nonviolent forms of coercion. NGOs reported continued instances of misunderstandings among state and local officials about the definition of trafficking, citing cases where law enforcement erroneously rule out trafficking because victims have some freedom of movement.
The federal government demonstrated some progress in addressing official complicity, reporting the sentencing of a former juvenile probation officer to 18 years in prison for sex trafficking, and reporting that other officials are under investigation. An Army service member arrested during the previous reporting period on charges of sex trafficking involving a 17-year-old pled guilty, was sentenced to five years’ probation, and was administratively discharged under other than honorable conditions due to serious misconduct. A former Navy service member arrested in the previous reporting period in Hawaii on charges of sex trafficking of a 16-year-old remained incarcerated in FY 2015, pending prosecution.
The federal government continued to collect state and local data on human trafficking investigations during the reporting period through the Uniform Crime Reporting Program; however, not all state and local jurisdictions participated. Data from 2014 collected from participating jurisdictions are publicly available. In 2014, jurisdictions reported a total of 120 human trafficking offenses resulting in arrest or solved for crime reporting purposes. There is no formal mechanism to track prosecutions at the state and local levels.
The U.S. government continued efforts to train officials and share information. Federal agencies incorporated survivor feedback in anti-trafficking law enforcement and taskforce training on topics including victim identification, survivor-centered best practices in investigations and prosecutions, and trauma-informed victim interview techniques.
Multiple federal agencies continued to engage in extensive capacity building for law enforcement, judges, military personnel, health care and social service providers, labor inspectors, pro bono attorneys, and others, and increased their outreach to officials in Indian Country. DHS continued its extensive law enforcement trainings by incorporating human trafficking awareness training into basic federal law enforcement training academies and producing a new web-based training course for law enforcement and judges. In FY 2015, DOS launched an outreach program for domestic field offices and passport centers in the United States to train personnel on human trafficking, including on investigations and prosecutions.
The U.S. government continued to increase its efforts to protect trafficking victims. It granted Continued Presence to more trafficking victims for the first time in three years and increased funding for victim services. It also increased collaboration with NGOs, other victim service providers, and survivors for an enhanced multidisciplinary response to victim identification and service referrals. For a fourth consecutive year, it certified and provided services to a significantly higher number of trafficking victims. NGOs reported state and local authorities continued to detain or prosecute trafficking victims, including those younger than 18 years of age, for conduct committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking.
Federally-funded victim assistance includes case management and referrals for medical and dental care, mental health and substance abuse treatment, sustenance and shelter, translation and interpretation services, immigration and legal assistance, employment and training, transportation assistance, and other services such as criminal justice advocacy. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued Certification and Eligibility Letters for foreign victims to access services and benefits to the same extent as refugees, provided grant funding for comprehensive case management for foreign and domestic trafficking victims, and funded capacity-building grants for child welfare systems to respond to trafficking. DOJ provided comprehensive and specialized services for both domestic and foreign trafficking victims. Federal funding for victim assistance increased in FY 2015. Record-keeping systems used by DOJ and HHS did not allow for cross-referencing to determine which victims were served by both agencies.
A Certification Letter enables foreign adult victims to receive federal and state services to the same extent as refugees when Continued Presence is granted or when a victim has a bona fide or approved application for “T nonimmigrant status,” as described further below. An Eligibility or Interim Assistance Letter allows immediate access to federally-funded benefits and services to the same extent as refugees when credible information indicates a child is or may be a victim of trafficking. HHS issued 623 Certification Letters to foreign adults and 240 Eligibility Letters to foreign children in FY 2015, an increase from the two previous years, when HHS issued a respective 530 and 219 Letters in FY 2014, and 406 and 114 Letters in FY 2013. Seventy-six percent of all victims certified in FY 2015 were victims of labor trafficking, more than half of which were female; and more than 78 percent of child trafficking victims who received Eligibility Letters were labor trafficking victims, up from 66 percent in FY 2014. HHS awarded $7.5 million in FY 2015 to three NGOs for the provision of case management services to foreign national victims through a nationwide network of NGO sub-recipients, a slight increase from $7.4 million in FY 2014. Through these grants, HHS supported 149 agencies with the capacity to serve at 286 sites across the country that provided assistance to a total of 1,726 individuals and their family members, a significant increase from 1,137 in FY 2014 and 915 the prior year. NGOs continued to report that lack of training for employees of public benefits offices on the HHS certification process resulted in the erroneous denial of benefits for some victims and their families and in survivors waiting long periods of time to access benefits.
In FY 2015, HHS significantly increased funding to serve domestic victims of human trafficking and provided $3.2 million for coordinated victim-centered services, an increase from $1.44 million in FY 2014. It provided an additional $2.25 million to address trafficking within child welfare systems for a second year.
DOJ continued to increase the number of trafficking victims to whom it provided assistance. From July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015, DOJ grantees providing victim services reported 3,889 open client cases, including 2,180 new clients, compared with 2,782 open client cases and 1,366 new clients from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014 and a respective 1,911 and 1,009 from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013. DOJ’s grantees reported that 51 percent of victims served during the reporting period were U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents and 49 percent were foreign nationals. During FY 2015, DOJ funded 21 victim service providers offering comprehensive and specialized services across the United States, totaling approximately $13.8 million, compared with $10.9 million in FY 2014 and $11.2 million in FY 2013.
The United States government has formal procedures to guide officials in victim identification and referral to service providers. During the year, HHS child protection specialists provided training and technical assistance to overcome barriers in identifying child trafficking victims. NGOs praised increased coordination among service providers and law enforcement due to changes in DOJ’s enhanced collaborative taskforces, but reported the need for improved coordination across federal agencies to ensure more consistent service provision and referral. NGOs continued to report some law enforcement officials did not recognize indicators of labor trafficking and called for additional support to assist law enforcement efforts to identify such trafficking. NGOs continued to report federal funding for victim services remained insufficient to address the myriad needs of individual victims and that requiring adult victims to report to law enforcement to be eligible for federally-funded services is unnecessary and potentially harmful. In March 2016, DOJ announced changes to this policy so that cooperation with law enforcement was no longer an eligibility requirement for accessing DOJ-funded victim services. An NGO reported that shelter, comprehensive services, and long-term housing options for all trafficking victims, especially male, LGBTI, and labor trafficking victims, continued to be insufficient.
In FY 2015, the federal government hired more social workers to screen and identify unaccompanied children who came to the attention of federal authorities. NGOs, however, reported concerns about screening procedures at the border, the welfare and safety of these children while in federal custody and post-release, and the need for expanded coordination among responsible federal agencies. When children are placed in the care and custody of HHS, they are screened for trafficking victimization in the United States or abroad. When appropriate, HHS makes a determination of eligibility for benefits and services, which may include long-term assistance. HHS assisted 124 child victims of trafficking through its Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Program in FY 2015, an increase from 113 served in FY 2014. This program requires states to provide such child victims with the same assistance, care, and services available to foster children. NGOs called for better monitoring and increased funding for the care of unaccompanied children, citing one trafficking case prosecuted by federal authorities and other anecdotal reports that after being placed in sponsors’ homes, children were subsequently forced to work or were subjected to sex trafficking.
DHS provides trafficking-specific immigration relief in two ways: short-term Continued Presence and longer-term “T nonimmigrant status” (commonly referred to as the T visa). Both statuses confer the right to work legally in the United States. T visa applicants must be victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons, be in the United States or at a port of entry on account of trafficking, and show cooperation with reasonable requests from law enforcement unless they are younger than 18 years of age or are unable to cooperate due to trauma suffered. They must also demonstrate that they would suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm upon removal from the United States. T visa applicants may petition for certain family members, including certain extended family members who face a present danger of retaliation; T visa beneficiaries and their derivative family members are authorized to work and are eligible for certain federal public benefits and services. After three years, or upon the completion of the investigation or prosecution, those with T visas may be eligible to apply for lawful permanent resident status and eventually may be eligible for citizenship. During the reporting period, DHS created and disseminated a resource guide for law enforcement and judges with information on T and U visas.
In FY 2015, DHS increased its issuance of Continued Presence to 173 trafficking victims who were potential witnesses, from 130 in FY 2014. It granted an additional 223 extensions of Continued Presence. NGOs continued to call for additional efforts to ensure more consistent application of Continued Presence across the United States.
DHS granted T nonimmigrant status to 610 victims and 694 eligible family members of victims in FY 2015, compared to a respective 613 and 788 in FY 2014. These figures continued to represent an overall general decline when compared with previous years. NGOs reported that, in some cases, law enforcement failed to provide support for T visa applications, effectively delaying the application process and survivors’ access to federal benefits and employment; they called for additional training and technical assistance for federal, tribal, state, and local law enforcement agencies related to the T visa application process.
Another form of immigration relief available to trafficking victims is “U nonimmigrant status” (commonly referred to as the U visa) for victims of certain qualifying crimes who are helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the qualifying criminal activity and meet other specific eligibility requirements. In FY 2015, there were 29 approved principal applicants where trafficking was the qualifying crime, an increase from 17 in FY 2014.
In FY 2015, a DOS program reunified 244 family members with identified victims of trafficking in the United States. This program provided two survivors with assistance returning to their home country.
Multiple agencies across the federal government continued to provide training to federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement, as well as to NGO service providers and health and human service providers to encourage more consistent application of a victim-centered approach in all phases of victim identification, assistance, recovery, and participation in the criminal justice process. NGOs expressed concern, however, that despite federal funding programs mandating comprehensive services for all victims of trafficking, services were not provided equally; advocates noted labor trafficking victims, adult sex trafficking victims, boys, and LGBTI youth faced difficulties obtaining needed services. A survivor network also reported some victims felt pressure to testify against their traffickers to obtain access to services. HHS continued to train service providers for runaway and homeless youth and developed a support mechanism for states and service providers on addressing child trafficking, particularly as it intersects with the child welfare system and runaway and homeless youth programs. NGOs urged the federal government to encourage state welfare agencies to develop policies and procedures for children at risk for all types of trafficking, not just youth at risk for sex trafficking.
NGOs continued to report that law enforcement at the state and local levels failed to treat sex-trafficked children as victims of trafficking, and instead arrested and incarcerated them for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking. Victim advocates who documented this phenomenon found that trafficking victims may be arrested frequently and called on states to reform their laws to ensure trafficking victims are not criminalized for offenses their traffickers force them to commit. NGOs continued to report that authorities sometimes placed children in restrictive or lockdown residential placements to protect them from their traffickers or to secure testimony, which often resulted in decreased trust in law enforcement and re-traumatization. Advocates report that despite the sometimes good intentions of law enforcement, the arrest and detention response created barriers to employment, housing, and other needs essential to avoid re-trafficking and facilitate victims’ recovery.
The U.S. government made progress on efforts to prevent trafficking. The government provided opportunities for stakeholder input and transparency. Federal agencies conducted numerous awareness and training activities for their own personnel, including law enforcement and acquisition professionals, and field office staff. The President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (PITF) reported on agency accomplishments in combating human trafficking again this year, with the U.S. Office of the Trade Representative joining the PITF and the presidentially-appointed survivor advisory council members attending the PITF annual meeting. The government continued to implement the Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States, 2013-2017, and publicly released its first status report during the year.
The government continued public outreach measures on the causes and consequences of human trafficking and continued efforts to increase victim identification among vulnerable populations and sectors. HHS continued to fund an NGO to operate the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC), a hotline that received almost 34,000 calls in FY 2015 from across the United States and U.S. territories. U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide provided a “Know Your Rights” pamphlet that included the national hotline number and confirmed that applicants for temporary work and exchange visitor visas received, read, and understood the pamphlet. This effort subsequently generated 286 calls to the national hotline, a significant decline from the 791 calls generated by the pamphlet the previous calendar year. In a January 2016 report, a DHS internal audit found traffickers continued to use legal means, including work and fiance visas, to bring potential trafficking victims to the United States, and recommended relevant federal agencies improve the quality and quantity of data exchanged. The Department of Transportation and DHS worked with industry partners to implement human trafficking trainings for airline personnel and the motor coach industry. In 2015, DHS continued its nationwide human trafficking awareness Blue Campaign and developed new products for medical front-line responders at state, local, and tribal levels; DOJ conducted outreach events to promote resources and services available to victims; HHS continued outreach to increase victim identification and awareness, including among tribal leaders and targeted training in the health care sector. The Department of Education continued outreach efforts to integrate trafficking information into school curricula and resources, and collaborated with HHS to launch a peer-to-peer social media competition to raise awareness among high school students. The U.S. Agency for International Development funded anti-trafficking activities in more than 20 countries and launched a new initiative to improve identification of the risk of human trafficking at the lower levels of global supply chains. In FY 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) conducted 232 human trafficking outreach events, reaching more than 11,600 individuals. DOL also launched an initiative with ILO to support efforts to combat forced labor under the 2014 ILO Protocol and Recommendation on forced labor. The Department of Agriculture and HHS launched an initiative to raise awareness alongside food and agricultural industry partners to target rural communities. DoD provided annual training for all DoD personnel, including troops prior to their deployment abroad as part of international peacekeeping missions. A DoD-wide taskforce met throughout the year to increase regional command coordination and engagement on trafficking. An NGO called on the federal government to use prevention and awareness campaigns to reach both community members and potential victims, effectively describe human trafficking, and include specific language on how to help someone in need.
Reports of abuses continued, including allegations of human trafficking, of workers in the United States on work-based or other nonimmigrant visas. One NGO report found that of 805 potential labor trafficking cases reported to the national hotline and textline from August 1, 2014 to July 31, 2015, 148 cases involved victims issued A-3, B-1, G-5, H-2A, H-2B, or J-1 visas. One NGO reported the United States had insufficient laws regulating foreign labor recruiters and fraud was rampant among this category of recruiters, and called for passage of a federal law to prohibit recruiters from charging fees to workers and provide more legal safeguards to protect workers from unscrupulous recruiters.
Both the H-2A and H-2B programs prohibit directly or indirectly charging foreign workers job placement, recruitment, or other fees related to employment, and both require disclosure of the terms of employment. In FY 2015, DOL and DHS issued two new H-2B rules that enhanced worker protections, including against fraudulent recruitment and other practices that could result in labor trafficking. Such provisions included requiring disclosure of foreign labor recruiters as well as those working for the recruiters operating domestically and overseas, and prohibiting retaliation against workers. NGOs, however, cited concern that provisions in the FY 2016 appropriations act increased some H-2B workers’ vulnerability to trafficking by expanding the program and reducing wage guarantees, employer accountability for recruiting abuses, transparency, and oversight.
In the J-1 Summer Work Travel (SWT) Program, DOS has prohibited jobs deemed dangerous to exchange visitor health, safety, and welfare, and continued to implement a program to monitor participant health, safety, and welfare. In 2015, DOS visited 985 Summer Work Travel exchange visitor sites in 42 states and the District of Columbia. DOS also broadened outreach efforts with 20 community support structures in 19 states with significant SWT populations to educate participants on safety and housing among other things.
The government took additional steps to protect foreign domestic workers employed by foreign mission personnel during the reporting period. In June 2015, DOS briefed senior foreign embassy officials to reiterate U.S. domestic worker program requirements and foreign missions’ responsibility for the welfare of these workers, and announced the launch of a new In-Person Registration Program effective October 2015. The registration program requires foreign domestic workers employed by personnel working at foreign missions and international organizations to appear (without their employer present) for an annual appointment at DOS for registration and to review the domestic worker’s rights and responsibilities related to her or his employment contract. In January 2016, the government notified the United Nations Permanent Mission community that diplomatic privileges and immunities will not be conferred on individuals who are subject, at the time accreditation is sought, to pending criminal charges in the United States punishable by incarceration for more than one year. Despite these efforts, NGOs continued to raise concerns that some foreign mission personnel evade current protection measures for foreign domestic workers and again recommended the government take additional steps to protect domestic workers employed by foreign diplomats in the United States, including expanding the registration program outside of Washington D.C. and seeking input from NGOs.
The government enhanced protections for personal domestic workers employed by U.S. personnel abroad. In February 2016, the government issued new regulations holding U.S. personnel at embassies abroad to standards substantially similar to those that apply to foreign mission personnel posted in the United States with regard to the employment of domestic workers, including a new requirement that enhances protections for domestic workers brought into the host country by U.S. diplomats. The new regulations also prohibit U.S. diplomats from making deductions for food and lodging from worker wages and require them to provide non-cash wage payments directly to workers. In May 2015, an Australian court enforced a 2012 U.S. court default judgment for $3.3 million in damages against a former American diplomat living in Australia, related to trafficking offenses committed against a domestic worker. After the judgment was enforced, the parties agreed to an out-of-court settlement. The government continued to provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel; DOS provided both classroom and web-based training for Diplomatic Security personnel, consular officers, and other employees.
Civil enforcement of federal laws was a significant component of the government’s anti-trafficking efforts. DOL investigated complaints and conducted targeted civil labor investigations involving workers in industries and sectors known to be vulnerable to labor trafficking. During the reporting period, EEOC, which enforces federal employment discrimination statutes, continued to pursue cases on behalf of workers subjected to trafficking and ensure compensation for victims of trafficking. In December 2015, EEOC settled a case on behalf of 476 workers from India for claims of race and national origin discrimination. Federal law also allows a person subjected to trafficking to independently file a civil cause of action.
U.S. laws provide extraterritorial jurisdiction over child sex tourism offenses perpetrated overseas by U.S. citizens. DOJ and DHS continued to investigate allegations of child sex tourism and partner with foreign law enforcement counterparts to share information regarding international travel of registered child sex offenders. Three defendants were convicted of federal child sex tourism charges under the federal statute, 18 U.S.C. § 2423(c), in FY 2015. Offenders who abuse children abroad could be prosecuted under other statutes, and prosecutions based upon other statutes are not reflected in this statistic.
The U.S. government continued its efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex and forced labor in the reporting period. DoD investigated at least 38 cases of service members allegedly violating DoD’s prohibition relating to the procurement of commercial sex, compared to 39 investigations the previous year.
Federal agencies sought preliminary public comment on a proposed new rule to define recruitment fees in the context of Executive Order 13627 on “Strengthening Protections Against Trafficking in Persons in Federal Contracts,” and its implementing regulations. These include a provision prohibiting contractors and those in their supply chains from charging employees recruitment fees. NGOs called for enforcement of these regulations and increased federal transparency on investigations, including into DoD contracts, as well as notice of any disciplinary action taken against federal contractors.
DOJ and other federal law enforcement agencies continued to investigate allegations of debt bondage and excessive recruitment fees required of third-country nationals working on certain U.S. government contracts abroad. There were no reports of civil actions or criminal prosecutions, debarment, or other sanctions against noncompliant employers or labor contractors from U.S. programs.
In FY 2015, the Department of the Interior (DOI) developed and launched the first Native American Human Trafficking TaskForce to conduct training and public awareness among tribal leaders and gaming institutions; this taskforce also initiated development of victim identification protocols. DHS worked with DOI to produce and deliver human trafficking training to tribal communities and develop a training program for tribal law enforcement. DOJ funded a human trafficking curriculum in Indian Country, which was presented to 20 tribes and 249 individuals during FY 2015, and visited three reservations in North Dakota to meet with law enforcement officers to improve understanding of human trafficking. HHS continued to host community listening sessions with tribal leaders and integrate human trafficking as part of its tribal consultation activities. HHS also collaborated with an NGO to launch a webinar to more than 1,000 participants on trauma-informed care for American Indian and Alaska Native victims as well as prevention and intervention strategies, and worked with tribal youth and other stakeholders to adapt a toolkit for use by college, high school, and middle school students. Challenges include a lack of a criminal justice infrastructure adequate to the needs of Indian country and a scarcity of social services for victims.
U.S. INSULAR AREAS
All forms of trafficking are believed to occur in the U.S. insular areas, including Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI).
In Guam and in CNMI, members of DOJ-led human trafficking taskforces engaged in meetings with international and regional partners in Hawaii to share strategies for improving victim-centered approaches in human trafficking cases and conducted trainings and outreach with schools and with the travel and visitor industries. In collaboration with the two taskforces, DOJ also established an initiative to enhance coordination with stakeholders in the Pacific Region on victim services, law enforcement responses, training, community outreach, and prevention programs.
In CNMI, defendants convicted of human trafficking and related crimes received lengthy sentences. For example, in February 2016, a male defendant was sentenced to the statutory maximum of 360 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release for sexual exploitation of a child. The defendant was also ordered to pay restitution to two minor victims.
Three defendants were convicted of human trafficking in Puerto Rico during the reporting period, and one case of sex trafficking was charged in both Puerto Rico and the USVI.
HHS provides services to foreign victims of trafficking in American Samoa, CNMI, Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau. In 2015, the HHS-funded NHTRC hotline received 47 calls from U.S. territories, with most calls coming from Puerto Rico.
HHS provided grant-funded targeted training to federal, territorial, and local agencies in Puerto Rico and the USVI in 2015 to increase awareness of human trafficking cases, integrate standards and trauma-informed care, and apply multi-sector responses.