What is human trafficking?
Trafficking in persons is modern-day slavery, involving victims who are forced, defrauded or coerced into labor or sexual exploitation. Annually, about 600,000 to 800,000 people -- mostly women and children -- are trafficked across national borders which does not count millions trafficked within their own countries.
Examples of recent cases of human trafficking in the U.S. include adolescent Mexican girls trafficked to the U.S. for forced prostitution, Indian men trafficked for forced labor, and African women and children trafficked for domestic servitude, among others.
People are snared into trafficking by many means. In some cases, physical force is used. In other cases, false promises are made regarding job opportunities or marriages in foreign countries to entrap victims.
What help is available for trafficking victims?Anyone in the United States identified by law enforcement as a victim of a severe form of trafficking has certain rights and may be eligible for benefits, including immigration relief, social services, and access to refugee benefit programs.
When trafficking victims are first identified, they may be granted continued presence by the Attorney General, allowing them to stay in the country temporarily during an investigation or prosecution. They can also apply for a “T-visa,” a special three-year visa for victims of trafficking which also allows them to apply for legal permanent residence status at the end of the three-year period. The victims must be willing to assist in every reasonable way in the investigation and prosecution of the trafficking case to qualify for the T-visa unless they are under age 18.
A person who is granted continued presence or applies for the T-visa, and is willing to assist in the investigation and prosecution of the case, may also be “certified” as a victim of trafficking by ORR. Once certified, the person is eligible for benefits and services to the same extent as a refugee. Therefore, certification allows the person to access resettlement services, public benefits such as food stamps or Refugee Medical Assistance, etc.
What impact does human trafficking have on the world?
Human trafficking is a multi-dimensional threat: it deprives people of their human rights and freedoms, it is a global health risk, and it fuels the growth of organized crime.
Human trafficking has a devastating impact on individual victims, who often suffer physical and emotional abuse, rape, threats against self and family, passport theft, and even death. But the impact of human trafficking goes beyond individual victims; it undermines the safety and security of all nations it touches.
What is the United States doing to stop trafficking?
Trafficking impacts many nations, including the United States. That’s why the U.S. Government has taken a number of serious and significant actions to combat trafficking occurring at home. A few examples of American efforts include:
Congress passed legislation so Americans who sexually prey on children abroad can be prosecuted and sentenced to as many as 30 years in prison.
The Department of Justice has focused on increasing the number of trafficking victims rescued and the number of prosecutions and convictions of traffickers.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is certifying trafficking victims so they may qualify for the same assistance available to refugees. HHS is also running a major public awareness campaign to alert victims in the U.S. that help is available through the hotline number 888.3737.888.
The Department of Defense has implemented a zero-tolerance stand against any actions by Defense personnel that contribute to human trafficking and is instituting a service-wide mandatory training program.
The Departments of Labor and Homeland Security, USAID, and other government agencies are executing action plans to combat human trafficking.
What is the U.S. doing to help other countries?
Because human trafficking is transnational in nature, partnerships between countries are critical to win the fight against modern-day slavery. The U.S. is reaching out to other countries in a number of important ways:
In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, President Bush raised the issue of human trafficking and asked leaders of the world to work together to end it.
The State Department is working extensively with governments on action plans for prevention, protection of victims, and prosecution.
Congress last year strengthened anti-trafficking legislation and provided more than $70 million in funding worldwide for efforts to end slavery. The U.S. is providing money around the world for:
Rehabilitation and work training centers for victims
Special housing shelters for victims
Law enforcement training and legal reform assistance
Information and awareness campaigns
Voluntary repatriation for displaced victims
Training for immigration officials, medical personnel and social workers
Combating sex tourism
Rescuing victims from slave-like situations
What needs to be done?
When dealing with an issue of this importance and urgency, there is much to be done. The U.S. is asking governments to immediately take action to step up their anti-trafficking efforts:
There is a critical need for increased rescues of trafficking victims and prosecutions of traffickers.
People freed from slavery must be treated as victims of crime, not criminals.
The demand for modern-day slaves must be stopped. This is not a victimless or harmless crime, and the public should be informed of the risks involved with it.