US Federal Response to Human Trafficking Has Focused on Foreign Trafficked Persons

As discussed in our previous posts, Human Trafficking is a global problem. Attorneys at Duane Morris have regularly represented victims of trafficking in immigration matters, including U and T visas as well as in Violence Against Women Act petitions for various immigration benefits. While the federal response has been meaningful, it has failed to solve all of the problems, for example, the U visa available to victims of crime is capped at 10,000 per year and as a result, significant backlogs have developed in that visa category. In spite of significant work left to do, there are many laws which have been passed in the United States to recognize the global nature of the problem.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 was the first comprehensive federal law to address trafficking in persons. As defined in this law, victims of human trafficking can be divided into three populations:

  • Children under the age of 18 induced into commercial sex;
  • Adults (age 18 or over) induced into commercial sex through force, fraud, or coercion;
  • Children and adults induced to perform labor or services through force, fraud, or coercion.

The first comprehensive federal law to address human trafficking, TVPA also recognized the international nature of the problem and provided a three-pronged approach: prevention programs; protection and services for foreign national victims; and federal prosecution of traffickers. Since 2000, the federal response to the problem has been expanded and refined:

 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2003: Established a federal, civil right of action for trafficking victims to sue their traffickers. It also added human trafficking to the list of crimes that can be charged under the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statue. The law also included provisions for protection of victims and their families from deportation, and a requirement that the Attorney General report to Congress annually on the activities of the U.S. government in the fight against trafficking.

Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005: Included a pilot program for sheltering minors who are survivors of human trafficking, and grant programs to assist state and local law enforcement to combat trafficking. This act expanded measures to combat trafficking internationally and included provisions to fight sex tourism, including a $5 million pilot program for treatment of trafficking victims abroad.

Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008: This act included several new prevention strategies: provision of information about worker’s rights to all people applying for work and education-based visas; new systems to gather and report human trafficking data; trafficking screening of all unaccompanied minors coming into the United States.

Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2013: established programs to ensure that U.S. citizens do not purchase products made by victims of human trafficking and prevents child marriage. This act also put into place emergency response provisions within the State Department to respond quickly to disaster areas and crises where people are particularly susceptible to trafficking.

We at Duane Morris are hopeful that the federal government, states and all countries will continue to work together to end Human Trafficking. In the meantime, we will continue to do our work, representing one victim at a time and helping them heal the legal wounds inflicted by their traffickers and by society.

© 2009- Duane Morris LLP. Duane Morris is a registered service mark of Duane Morris LLP.

The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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