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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Trafficking in Persons: U.S. Policy and Issues for Congress



Alison Siskin
Specialist in Immigration Policy

Liana Sun Wyler
Analyst in International Crime and Narcotics


Trafficking in persons (TIP) for the purposes of exploitation is believed to be one of the most prolific areas of contemporary international criminal activity and is of significant interest to the United States and the international community as a serious human rights concern. TIP is both an international and a domestic crime that involves violations of labor, public health, and human rights standards, and criminal law.

In general, the trafficking business feeds on conditions of vulnerability, such as youth, gender, poverty, ignorance, social exclusion, political instability, and ongoing demand. Actors engaged in human trafficking range from amateur family-run organizations to sophisticated transnational organized crime syndicates. Trafficking victims are often subjected to mental and physical abuse in order to control them, including debt bondage, social isolation, removal of identification cards and travel documents, violence, and fear of reprisals against them or their families. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), some 20.9 million individuals today are estimated to be victims of forced labor, including TIP. As many as 17,500 people are believed to be trafficked into the United States each year, and some have estimated that 100,000 U.S. citizen children are victims of trafficking within the United States.

Human trafficking is of great concern to the United States and the international community. Anti- TIP efforts have accelerated in the United States since the enactment of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA, P.L. 106-386) and internationally since the passage of the U.N. Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, adopted in 2000. Through the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA, Division A of P.L. 106-386) and its reauthorizations (TVPRAs), Congress has aimed to eliminate human trafficking by creating international and domestic grant programs for both victims and law enforcement, creating new criminal laws, and conducting oversight on the effectiveness and implications of U.S. anti-TIP policy. Most recently, the TVPA was reauthorized through FY2011 in the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA of 2008, P.L. 110-457).

The United States engages in anti-TIP efforts internationally and domestically. The bulk of U.S. anti-trafficking programs abroad is administered by the State Department, United States Agency for International Development, and Department of Labor. In keeping with U.S. anti-trafficking policy, these programs have emphasized prevention, protection, and prosecution (the three “Ps”). Prevention programs have combined public awareness and education campaigns with education and employment opportunities for those at risk of trafficking, particularly women and girls. Protection programs have involved direct support for shelters, as well as training of local service providers, public officials, and religious groups. Programs to improve the prosecution rates of traffickers have helped countries draft or amend existing anti-TIP laws, as well as provided training for law enforcement and judiciaries to enforce those laws. However, it is difficult to evaluate the impact of international U.S. anti-trafficking efforts since few reliable measures of TIP have been identified.

Domestically, anti-TIP efforts also include protection for victims, education of the public, and the investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenses. The Departments of Justice (DOJ), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Labor (DOL) have programs or administer grants to other entities to provide assistance specific to the needs of victims of trafficking. These needs include temporary housing, independent living skills, cultural orientation, transportation needs, job training, mental health counseling, and legal assistance. Both HHS and the Department of


Homeland Security (DHS) administer public awareness campaigns on recognizing human trafficking victims. In addition, within the United States at the federal level, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in DOJ and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in DHS both have primary responsibility for investigating and prosecuting traffickers.

Some of the issues surrounding U.S. policy to combat human trafficking include whether there is equal treatment of all victims—both foreign nationals and U.S. citizens (USCs), as well as victims of labor and sex trafficking; whether current law and services are adequate to deal with the emerging issue of minor sex trafficking in the United States (i.e., the prostitution of children in the United States); and whether U.S. efforts to stem human trafficking internationally are efficacious, especially with the use of the TIP report and aid restrictions.

In addition, the current budget situation has heightened interest in Congress on the funding and oversight of current efforts to fight TIP, to make sure that the grant programs authorized under the TVPA as amended do not duplicate efforts and that funding is being used in the most efficacious manner. Obligations for global and domestic anti-TIP programs, not including operations and law enforcement investigations, totaled approximately $109.5 million in FY2010. The TVPRA of 2008 authorized $191.3 million in global and domestic anti-TIP programs for FY2011.

Authorizations for the grant programs under TVPA expired at the end of FY2011. On February 12, 2013, the Senate passed S. 47. Among other things, S. 47 would modify some of the grant programs, expand reporting requirements, create new criminal penalties for trafficking offenses, and reauthorize appropriations from FY2014 through FY2017.

See also CRS Report R41878, Sex Trafficking of Children in the United States: Overview and Issues for Congress, by Kristin M. Finklea, Adrienne L. Fernandes-Alcantara, and Alison Siskin; and CRS Report R42497, Trafficking in Persons: International Dimensions and Foreign Policy Issues for Congress, by Liana Sun Wyler.


Date of Report: Febrary 27, 2013
Number of Pages: 68
Order Number: RL34317
Price: $29.95

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