Human trafficking is reputed to be one of the most profitable endeavors of organized crime and the fastest growing; an endeavor which enslaves thousands of people within our borders each year and perhaps millions outside those borders. It is a crime of increasing proportions, fully repugnant to American beliefs; a crime that preys on the world's most vulnerable people.
The crime of human trafficking is slavery. It is the sexual exploitation of children for commercial purposes; it is compelling people to labor or provide services through force, fraud, or coercion, whether citizens, legal residents, or persons having entered the country illegally. It is also taking from a person his or her travel documents (passports and or visas, whether authentic or forged) to compel that person's labor or services.
The United States is generally a destination for trafficking victims who are recruited in their home countries and transported through other countries. But movement is not required for human trafficking to occur. Many U.S. citizens are trafficked, usually run-away teenage girls, who are preyed upon by pimps and trafficked for prostitution. The Department of Justice has included investigating human trafficking among its top priorities.
BJA Anti-Human Trafficking Efforts
In Summer 2004 following the First National Human Trafficking Conference, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) began building on Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) efforts to assist victims of trafficking in persons. While the TVPA provides for services to foreign victims of trafficking and prosecution of human trafficking at the federal level, it is often local law enforcement personnel who initially encounter victims of trafficking in the course of their daily operations. Local law enforcement agencies may often uncover trafficking situations when making routine service calls for aggravated assault, domestic disturbance, battery, and other crimes. Therefore, local-level policing that is informed about victim identification and the available victim services, when combined with federal investigative capacity and coordinated with the U.S. Attorney's Office, presents a formidable force for the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking.
To combat human trafficking, BJA's efforts have been two-pronged: 1) to develop training for law enforcement and communities to identify trafficking in persons and rescue victims by working with federal law enforcement and victims service providers; and 2) to support and fund task forces (in coordination with OVC and HHS) based on a sound strategy of collaboration among state and local enforcement, trafficking victim services providers, federal law enforcement, and U.S. Attorneys Offices.
Congress has passed and Presidents have signed into law, "The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000" (P.L. 106-386), which was reauthorized in 2003, 2005, and 2008 by the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2003 (P.L. 108-193), the TVPRA of 2005 (P.L. 109-164), and the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-457). The TVPA and its reauthorizations seek to combat human trafficking by punishing traffickers, protecting victims, and mobilizing U.S. government agencies to wage a global anti-trafficking campaign. These Acts contain significant mandates for the U.S. Departments of State, Justice, Labor, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The TVPA includes two forms of severe trafficking: sex trafficking and labor trafficking. TVPA defines "severe forms of trafficking" as:
- Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age.
- The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, by 2013, every state has enacted laws establishing criminal penalties for traffickers seeking to profit from forced labor or sexual servitude. The laws vary on "who is defined as a 'trafficker,' the statutory elements required to prove guilt to obtain a conviction and the seriousness of the criminal and financial penalties those convicted will face."