VI. United States Government Efforts
The U.S. Government condemns trafficking in persons and remains firmly committed to fighting this scourge and protecting victims who fall prey to traffickers. Our commitment to eradicate trafficking includes:
- Vigorously enforcing U.S. laws against all those who traffic in persons;
- Raising awareness at home and abroad about human trafficking and how it can be eradicated;
- Identifying, protecting, and assisting those victims exploited by traffickers;
- Reducing the vulnerability of individuals to trafficking through increased education, economic opportunity, and protection and promotion of human rights; and
- Employing diplomatic and foreign policy tools to encourage other nations, the UN and other multilateral institutions to work with us to combat this crime, draft and enforce laws against trafficking, and hold accountable those engaged in it.
Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2003
In December 2003 Congress passed and President Bush signed the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which enhanced the State Department's reporting of government efforts to combat modern-day slavery by:
- Providing new tools for addressing destination countries that may be turning a blind eye to trafficking;
- Making convictions and sentencing of traffickers as important as investigations and prosecutions in evaluating country efforts to eliminate trafficking;
- Requiring better statistical monitoring, providing greater access to critical law enforcement data related to trafficking; and
- Creating a Special Watch List.
The PROTECT Act
Another law was enacted in 2003 to give U.S. authorities better tools to combat international sex tourism and the commercial sexual exploitation of children, as well as domestic federal offenses of child abuse, child kidnapping, and child torture. In April 2003, the PROTECT Act (Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation of Children Today Act of 2003) was passed by the Congress and signed into law by President Bush. The Act serves as a historic milestone for protecting children while severely punishing those who victimize young people. Of particular note, the PROTECT Act allows law enforcement officers to prosecute Americans who travel abroad and sexually abuse minors, without having to prove prior intent to commit illicit crimes. The law also strengthens the punishment of child sex tourists. If convicted, child sex tourists now face up to 30 years imprisonment, an increase from the previous maximum of 15 years. The PROTECT Act made several other changes to the law with a focus on protecting children from sexual predators, including: extending the statute of limitations for federal crimes involving the abduction or physical or sexual abuse of a child for the lifetime of the child; expanding the potential reach of federal sex trafficking prosecutions by extending federal jurisdiction to crimes committed in foreign commerce; establishing parallel penalty enhancements for the production of child pornography overseas; and, criminalizing actions to arrange or facilitate the travel of child sex tourists.
Other U.S. Government efforts and mechanisms to combat trafficking in persons include the annual Trafficking in Persons report; the President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons; and, the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons in the U.S. Department of State.
The Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons ("TIP Office")
The State Department's "TIP Office" is mandated to: combat and eradicate human trafficking by focusing worldwide attention on the international slave trade; assisting countries to eliminate trafficking; promoting regional and bilateral cooperation; supporting service providers and NGOs active in trafficking prevention and victim protection efforts. The TIP office also assists foreign governments in drafting or strengthening anti-trafficking lawsand funds law enforcement and victim assistance training to foreign governments to ensure traffickers are fully investigated and prosecuted to final conviction.
The TIP Office supported more than 240 anti-trafficking programs in over 75 countries in fiscal year 2003. The types of assistance include the following: economic alternative programs for vulnerable groups; education programs; training for government officials and medical personnel; development or improvement of anti-trafficking laws; provision of equipment for law enforcement; establishment or renovation of shelters, crisis centers, or safe houses for victims; support for voluntary and humane return and reintegration assistance for victims; and support for psychological, legal, medical and counseling services for victims provided by NGOs, international organizations and governments.
Other U.S. Agency Activities
The TVPA also mandates that federally-funded or administered benefits and services, such as cash assistance, medical care, food stamps, and housing, be made available for certain non-citizen trafficking victims. During 2003, trafficking victims in the U.S. received information from federal authorities about the rights and protections available to them. The Departments of State, Justice, and Homeland Security have been implementing this mandate.
Federal Law Enforcement Assistance
Federal investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Bureau (ICE), the Diplomatic Security Service, as well as other federal officials who encounter trafficking victims hand out a brochure describing a trafficking victim's rights and the protections available to him or her. ICE also operates a hotline for victims and non-governmental organizations to communicate directly with the ICE victim-witness assistance program. The ICE hotline number is 1-866-DHS-2ICE. Alternatively, the U.S. Department of Justice's Trafficking in Persons and Worker Exploitation Task Force hotline is 1-888-428-7581. In 2003, ICE provided its 25 field offices funds to purchase items to help assist trafficking victims. Funding was used for car seats to safely transport minor children of trafficking victims, clothing, personal hygiene items, bags for personal belongings, cots for children, and other needed items.
ICE retrofitted 25 cars with tinted glass so that investigators and victim-witness coordinators could transport victims, including trafficking victims, with confidentiality. ICE coordinated with its New York office to provide nationwide translation services for victims of trafficking in ICE investigations.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provides certification and eligibility letters for victims that allow them to access most benefits and services comparable to the assistance provided to refugees. In March 2004, a HHS-sponsored hotline for victims of trafficking, run by an NGO, was activated. The number is: 1-888-373-7888. In fiscal year 2003, HHS issued $3.48 million to 15 organizations to help victims of trafficking with a range of services, including temporary housing, independent living skills, cultural orientation, and transportation needs, and for educational programs and legal assistance.
In fiscal year 2003, HHS provided 151 certifications and benefits eligibility letters, of which 145 were certification letters to adults and six were eligibility letters to child trafficking victims. Over 200 trafficking victims rescued in the Kil Soo Lee case are provided services by a HHS grantee. The case, prosecuted between 2001 and 2004, is the largest U.S. trafficking case to date, and involved Vietnamese and Chinese nationals trafficked to American Samoa.
The Department of Justice also met immediate needs of victims of trafficking in persons through witness assistance programs and services provided by the grantees of the Department of Justice's Office for Victims of Crime (OVC). In January 2003, the OVC awarded 12 grants totaling more than $9.5 million to non-governmental organizations for the purpose of providing trafficking victims with comprehensive or specialized services, and to provide these grantees with training and technical assistance for program support. Grantee organizations must provide comprehensive services, including immediate housing.
Victims of trafficking often need legal assistance with immigration and other matters. Since the passage of the TVPA, the Legal Services Corporation must make available legal assistance to trafficking victims. The Legal Services Corporation is a private, non-profit corporation established by Congress which funds legal aid programs around the nation to help indigent Americans gain equal access to the civil justice system. The Legal Services Corporation grantees assisted a total of 81 victims nationwide during fiscal year 2003.
There are two immigration benefits available through the TVPA to trafficking victims who meet certain eligibility requirements. Victims may be authorized "continued presence" to temporarily remain in the United States if federal law enforcement determines they are potential witnesses to trafficking.
Victims may also petition the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services within the Department of Homeland Security to receive "T visas," which are available to victims who have complied with reasonable requests for assistance to investigate or prosecute acts of trafficking. Victims who receive T non-immigrant status may remain in the United States for three years, and can then apply for permanent residency.
As of September 30, 2003, the Department of Homeland Security had granted an estimated 374 continued presence requests. For trafficking victims that request repatriation, U.S. Government personnel assist in the repatriation process by liaising with foreign governments to facilitate the victim's return and to try to ensure that the victim is not trafficked again.
Investigations and Prosecutions of Traffickers
Human trafficking cases are among the most labor- and time-intensive matters undertaken by the Department of Justice. They often involve language barriers, multiple investigating agencies, overseas investigations, and in many cases, severe sexual or physical trauma to victims and witnesses, requiring the expertise of various professionals including rape counselors, psychiatrists, physicians, and child interview specialists.
As of April 2004, the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division had 153 open trafficking investigations - twice as many as compared with three years earlier. Over one-half of these investigations were initiated as a result of the "Trafficking in Persons and Worker Exploitation Task Force Complaint Line," 1-888-428-7581, established in February 2000. In fiscal years 2001 through 2003, the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division and US Attorneys Offices initiated prosecutions of 110 traffickers, nearly a three-fold increase compared to the previous three fiscal years. In fiscal years 2001 through 2003, the Department of Justice secured 77 convictions and guilty pleas, a 50 percent increase over the previous three years.
In United States v. Kil Soo Lee, the largest trafficking prosecution ever brought by the Department of Justice, the Civil Rights Division led a long and difficult investigation resulting in a 22-count indictment against five defendants charged with subjecting workers to involuntary servitude in a garment factory in American Samoa. The indictment, filed in federal court in Hawaii, charged that the defendants transported more than 200 Vietnamese and Chinese nationals, mostly young women, to work as sewing machine operators in a Daewoosa garment factory. The victims, some of whom were held for up to two years, were forced to work through extreme food deprivation, beatings, and physical restraint.
The victims were held in barracks on a guarded company compound, and were threatened with confiscation of their passports, deportation, economic bankruptcy, severe economic hardship to family members, false arrest, and personal injury. One victim had an eye gouged out by a defendant who struck her with a jagged pipe in order to punish her for refusing to comply with the defendants' orders. On August 31, 2001 two of the five defendants entered guilty pleas to conspiracy for their involvement in the scheme. On February 21, 2003, a jury convicted Lee, the factory owner and ringleader, on nearly all counts. Sentencing will occur in June 2004. The other two defendants, his subordinates, were acquitted. In April, 2002, 270 Vietnamese and Chinese workers who labored in the Daewoosa garment factory on American Samoa won an important legal victory. The High Court of American Samoa ordered the factory and two Vietnamese government-owned labor agencies to pay $3.5 million to the workers. Other cases are highlighted in the annual Department of Justice report.
International Grant Activity
The ideal way to combat trafficking is to prevent the victimization of people in the first place. Because the United States is a destination country for trafficked people, prevention activities in which the U.S. Government engages abroad are particularly important. Through the Department of State, the Department of Labor's Bureau of International Labor Affairs and the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Government offers a substantial amount of international assistance to help prevent trafficking in persons, and for improving the treatment of victims and the prosecution of traffickers abroad.
In FY 2003, the U.S. Government supported approximately 190 anti-trafficking programs totaling $72.2 million, and benefiting over 92 countries, up from 118 programs in 55 countries in fiscal year 2001. The Government of the United States has invested $147.5 million on anti-trafficking efforts over the last two fiscal years. The U.S. Government's international anti-trafficking efforts run the gamut from small projects to large multi-million-dollar programs to develop comprehensive regional and national strategies to combat the worst forms of child labor.
Based on U.S. Government findings over many years of international development work, assistance that has a positive impact on anti-trafficking efforts include: development or improvement of anti-trafficking laws; provision of equipment for law enforcement; economic alternative programs for vulnerable groups; education programs addressing both the supply and demand sides of trafficking in persons; training for government officials and medical personnel; anti-corruption measures; establishment or renovation of shelters, crisis centers, or safe-houses for victims; support for voluntary and humane return and reintegration assistance for victims; and support for psychological, legal, medical and counseling services for victims provided by NGOs, international organizations and governments.
Report on the Worst Forms of Child Labor
The Department of Labor also publishes an annual report, mandated by the Trade and Development Act of 2000, on efforts governments are taking to meet their international commitments to eliminate the worst forms of child labor, including the trafficking of children for exploitative labor and commercial sexual exploitation. The Trade and Development Act (TDA) provides that efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor count as an important eligibility criterion for countries that are recipients of trade benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences, the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act, and the African Growth and Opportunity Act. The TDA Report released in 2003 chronicled the incidence of the worst forms of child labor, and government efforts to combat it, in over 140 countries and territories.
The U.S. Government also engages internationally through cooperation with countries that support the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, which supplements the UN Convention Against Transnational and Organized Crime, adopted by the UN General Assembly in November 2000; the United States signed the Convention and Protocol in December 2000 and the President has submitted them to the Senate for advice and consent to ratification.
Three other international instruments that address the sale of and trafficking in children have also been adopted - International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 182 concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (which the United States ratified in February 1999), the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (which the United States ratified in December 2002), and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (which the United States ratified in December 2002). The Department of Labor works with the ILO to bring international attention to countries' obligations under ILO Convention 150, the Abolition of Forced Labor, as well.
Training of NGOs
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)have been vital to the U.S. Government's efforts to identify and help trafficking victims as well as to prosecute trafficking cases. The U.S. Government engages in extensive outreach to NGOs, which are often the first point of contact with trafficking victims. These contacts foster good relations with groups that receive and shelter trafficking victims and are often in a position to encourage victims to come forward and report abuse. Additionally, in those situations in which law enforcement is actively involved in liberating victims from servitude, some NGOs can provide safe houses for the victims.
U.S. Government personnel have been working closely with NGOs across the country to train service providers on the provisions of the TVPA, as amended. Through such training, federal prosecutors, Federal Bureau of Investigation and ICE agents, immigration officials and Health and Human Services' personnel have forged strong relationships with NGOs, learned about potential new cases, acquired NGO assistance in procuring refuge and support for trafficking victims, educated non-governmental organizations on the requirements for identifying a victim of a severe form of trafficking, and trained service providers on the roles they can play to contribute toward the success of a trafficking investigation and prosecution.
The Department of Labor (DOL) also supports programs through the International Organization's International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor as well as through non-governmental and faith-based organizations that address child trafficking in 20 countries around the world, either as the central focus of the project or as a component of a broader project. These projects rescue children from trafficking and exploitative work situations and provide them with rehabilitation services and educational opportunities.
Programs funded under DOL's Child Labor Education Initiative promote school attendance and provide educational opportunities for victims of child trafficking and children at risk of being trafficked. In the United States, DOL's Employment and Training Administration also assists victims with job training regardless of immigration status. This training includes job search assistance, career counseling, and occupational skills training.
Senior Policy Operating Group on Trafficking in Persons
In February 2002, pursuant to the TVPA, President George W. Bush established a Cabinet-level Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. The Task Force is chaired by the Secretary of State and includes the Attorney General, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Labor, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of Central Intelligence, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The Task Force's responsibilities include coordination and implementation of the Administration's anti-trafficking activities. In February 2003, the Congress passed and the President signed legislation creating the Senior Policy Operating Group on Trafficking in Persons (SPOG), chaired by the Director of the State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. The purpose of the SPOG is to bring together senior policy officials from the Task Force member agencies. This year the SPOG was responsible for a number of inter-agency policy developments including:
- Coordination of U.S. agency strategic plans to address trafficking in persons;
- Development of an inter-agency grant policy statement to help implement the President's National Security Presidential Directive on Trafficking in Persons;
- Creation of a website that lists member agency grants and grants opportunities; and
- Coordination of the President's $50 million initiative announced at the U.N. to fight trafficking in persons abroad.