An official website of the United States Government Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good afternoon, everyone.  It is particularly wonderful to see so many colleagues and friends around this table.  Really appreciate everyone being here today.  And it is an honor to chair what is now the second meeting of the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons for the Biden-Harris Administration.

We have a lot to get through today, and I want to make sure that we have a chance to do that.  But before we dive into the program, I just wanted to turn it over first to Liz Sherwood-Randall, our Homeland Security Advisor, and then we’ll follow on with the program.  But Liz, right over to you.

MS SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  (Audio drop) truly important topic.  This is a national security and a domestic priority for President Biden and his entire leadership team, as you can see around the table.  As the President declared in the National Human Trafficking Prevention Month proclamation this past December, “Around the world, human trafficking has stripped nearly 25 million people of their safety, dignity, and liberty.”  Twenty-five million people experiencing excruciating suffering.  We need to do everything we can to reduce and ultimately eliminate this scourge.

Thanks to the leaders in this room, including the Advisory Council on Human Trafficking represented here today by Brenda Myers-Powell, we have made significant progress towards this goal over the last two years, including preventing trafficking, prosecuting perpetrators, and protecting survivors.  First, as you know, we launched the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking.  Departments and agencies, including many around this table, have turned this plan into real and meaningful progress.  We’ve launched trauma informed training sessions to increase our federal employees’ expertise in victims’ rights. We’ve partnered with companies, foreign countries, and NGOs to listen to survivors, to learn from their stories, and to strengthen their access to care. We’ve held perpetrators accountable, including by launching an aggressive campaign in the Western Hemisphere to disrupt and dismantle human trafficking and smuggling networks. And together, we’ve enforced the Uyghur Forced Labor Protection Act, helping end the use of forced labor in our global supply chains. Second, over the last year, President Biden has worked across the aisle to sign important pieces of bipartisan legislation that further combat trafficking and its consequences. For example, the Countering Human Trafficking Act of 2022 codified the Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Countering Human Trafficking. The reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act expanded Tribal courts’ jurisdiction over non-Native sex traffickers on Tribal lands. A partial reorganization – excuse me – a partial reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act elevated the Advisory Council on Human Trafficking as a permanent part of our government’s anti-trafficking efforts. And our swift implementation of the 2021 Debt Bondage Repair Act has allowed victims to block adverse information from their credit reports that resulted from their trafficking experiences and more easily move on with their lives. Finally, so many of you here today, including the recipients of the Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking have taken steps to end this immoral and inhumane practice in your own communities and countries. You’ve not only made a difference, you’ve inspired others to do the same. I look forward to spending our time together today hearing more about your efforts and goals. So let me close with this:  we have already done meaningful and affirmative work. I’ve chronicled some of it just now, but there is an enormous amount still to be done. This is nothing less than modern slavery. It is an affront to our most sacred values, a cruel violation of fundamental human rights and of essential freedoms, and it is a drain on our economic vitality. The Biden Administration is committed to keeping this fight at the forefront of our agenda, and we are committed to working with you as we do. So thank you again for being here, for your dedication to this vital mission. And I’d like to turn it back now to Secretary Blinken to get our conversation underway.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:   Liz, thank you so much. Thank you for your leadership, for your engagement these past two years. I also want to start by thanking my other friend and colleague, Jen Klein of the Gender Policy Council here in the White House for everything that you’ve been doing, the Council has been doing, and I am also joined – and I will talk about this a little bit later – by our Ambassador-at-Large Cindy Dyer, who is taking this effort quite literally around the world as we need to do.

So as we convene this second meeting, I’m especially appreciative that we’re joined by Brenda Myers-Powell from the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking.

Brenda and her colleagues have brought the essential perspectives of survivors to our work. This is something that we have been very, very focused on and committed to. We are grateful for the trust. We are grateful for the partnership. We can’t do this effectively without having the voices, the views, the experiences, the ideas that survivors front and center in everything that we are doing. So this makes a huge difference. And I have to say I am very pleased that, as Liz noted, the legislation President Biden recently signed will make this Council a permanent part of our efforts.  That, in and of itself, is hugely important.

So we are here on behalf of more than 27 million people around the world who have been subjected to trafficking through force, through fraud, through coercion.  The mother and daughter made to toil 11-hour days in a sweltering factory.  The boy promised a better education and instead sold to work on a fishing boat.  The transgender woman driven into sex trafficking.  Each of these are real cases documented in the 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report among, alas, many, many more.

It is estimated that trafficking and traffickers gain $150 billion every year through crimes just like these.  What the victims lose, the human cost of this suffering, is simply beyond our ability to calculate.  Trafficking harms extend to entire societies – we know this – including here in the United States.  Human trafficking disproportionately impacts marginalized communities.  It undermines stability and the rule of law.  It weakens economies.  And, of course, it fuels other crimes and violent conflict.

President Biden put it this way:  “No human being should be preyed on for profit.”  In December of 2021, we released our updated National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, spelling out how we would achieve this goal of eradicating human trafficking.  And using that document as a guide – and you heard Liz address this – we’ve made real progress toward holding traffickers accountable, toward addressing the conditions that allow this horrific practice to continue.

With the support of pretty much everyone around this table, in this room, and folks who are listening in, we are working across so many different lines of effort.  We’re working to implement the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act and urging other countries to prohibit the importation of goods that are made with forced labor in Xinjiang, China.  We continue to impose financial sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.  As traffickers increasingly take advantage of social media and smartphones to recruit vulnerable young people, we’re enhancing our efforts to protect privacy and counter online sexual exploitation of children.

But, again as Liz said, for the progress that we’ve made and that I think we can rightfully take some pride in, so much more does remain to be done.  And we are committed to working with Congress – and this is a place where the issue has long been a bipartisan concern and remains so – we’re committed to working with Congress to further combat this crime.

And, as is so often the case, the work that we do inside the federal government is infinitely enriched by the leadership of our partners who are outside the federal government.  In fact, here again, we simply cannot succeed in our efforts without that partnership.  And so I’m grateful to so many who are engaged every single day on this and who are genuinely partners with us in combating this crime.

So before we mark the progress in more detail over the past year and especially before we set out priorities for the months ahead, I have one great privilege to start, and that’s recognizing recipients of the 2022 Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons.

So I’m going to ask our newly minted Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons Cindy Dyer to join me at the podium.  And I’ll have a chance to say a few brief words about each recipient, invite them up while, Cindy, you read the citations, and we get a chance present the awards.  So let’s take that on.

Alright.  So I see some very impressive-looking awards here, too.

Our very first awardee, the Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, the Center for Migrant Rights, has distinguished itself as a powerful advocate on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.  CDM champions the rights of seasonal laborers who are recruited, often under false pretenses, to work in fields and factories in the United States.  This organization has trained more than 38,000 migrant workers throughout Mexico to ensure that they know their rights.  They’ve represented exploited workers in court, setting legal precedents, recovering more than $40 million in unpaid wages.  From their headquarters in Mexico City to their U.S. office in Baltimore, CDM’s work is bi-national.  Their advocacy is multi-dimensional.  Their impact is immeasurable.

So it’s my honor to invite CDM’s founder, Rachel Micah-Jones, to receive the award.  (Applause.)

AMBASSADOR DYER:  Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Incorporated, for its outstanding record of assisting thousands of migrant workers to defend their rights, and its years of tireless advocacy and organizing to advance a more just and humane migration process free of forced labor and other forms of exploitation.  (Applause.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  So there’s clearly something in the water, because also hailing from Baltimore is Mercy Medical Center and their Blue Dot Human Trafficking Initiative, represented today by Mercy’s director of forensic nursing, Debra Holbrook.  This initiative, the Blue Dot initiative, began in 2019 as a partnership between the Baltimore City Human Trafficking Collaborative and Maryland law enforcement, offering a safe, judgment-free entry point for victims of trafficking and abuse.  It’s named after a marker that some of you may know.  Hospitals use this to enable potential victims to silently signal for help when they’re accompanied by their abuser – a circular blue sticker on a patient’s chart.

Blue Dot serves more than a dozen local hospital systems, prisons, nursing homes, university campuses, military bases.  The initiative has 30 forensic nurses on call 24/7, 365 days a year to provide comfort and care while also collecting evidence – when victims consent – to assist in criminal prosecution of traffickers.  They’ve trained law enforcement and medical providers to look for signs that someone may have been subjected to trafficking.  And they offer an app, bMOREsafe, to help victims of trafficking or sexual violence find the resources they need, the support that they need.  So please join me in congratulating Debra and this remarkable organization.  Debra.  (Applause.)

AMBASSADOR DYER:  Mercy Medical Center’s Blue Dot Human Trafficking Initiative for its innovative and holistic approach for the care and well-being of victims of human trafficking and the collaboration with first responders for a timely and effective response in an effort to initiate and further criminal investigations against those engaged in trafficking in persons.  (Applause.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Alright.  Thank you all.

So what I would like to do next is actually invite Ambassador Dyer, unanimously confirmed by the Senate – some folks around this table know that that means a lot – (laughter) – to give us an update on the interagency efforts of the Senior Policy Operating Group.  We are incredibly excited, Cindy, to have you on board.  Over to you.

AMBASSADOR DYER:  Thank you, Secretary Blinken.  It is a privilege to be in the presence of such distinguished leaders and extraordinary advocates in the fight against human trafficking.  I am honored to be here with you as the new Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, and I am excited to join you in our collective efforts to combat human trafficking at home and abroad.

Throughout each year, the Senior Policy Operating Group, which consists of senior officials representing 20 federal agencies, coordinates measurable actions across the federal government to prevent and address human trafficking.  We are honored to hear from a member of the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking today, and we are inspired and thankful for the Council’s engagement and partnership throughout the year.  Their participation in anti-trafficking initiatives, including their 2022 annual report, provide us with the insight and unique expertise necessary to move our goals forward.

The Senior Policy Operating Group has made significant progress, including on implementing the priorities of the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking.  Today, I would like to focus on a few of our accomplishments over the past year.  Earlier this month, the Public Awareness and Outreach Committee released its public guide for introductory-level human trafficking awareness training, a comprehensive resource for federal law enforcement and service provider agencies as well as nongovernmental stakeholders.  The training guide serves as a resource for professional entities when developing or updating human trafficking training for their workforces.

In January 2023, the Procurement and Supply Chains Committee hosted its first annual public outreach session to build understanding and awareness about the anti-trafficking requirements of the Federal Acquisition Regulation and to discuss actions the federal government can take to achieve more effective implementation.

The Senior Policy Operating Group is working to develop an implementation plan to integrate racial equity throughout its anti-trafficking efforts.  To guide us, in February 2022 we published a request for information on conducting anti-trafficking work with a racial equity lens, and we plan to host a public meeting in the coming months to hear further from stakeholders.  We also plan to hold small roundtables around the country to engage with different communities on topics related to the intersection of systemic racism and human trafficking.

Thank you for the opportunity to highlight some of the Senior Policy Operating Group’s recent efforts.  I look forward to working closely with my colleagues in the coming months.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Ambassador, thank you very, very much for that.  And I know there’s a lot more that we didn’t have time to touch on today, but greatly appreciate all of these efforts and particularly to have your leadership at this critical time.

Let me now recognize the Honorable Brenda Myers-Powell, who is representing the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking.  As I said earlier, the Council is an indispensable partner for everything we’re doing.  Brenda, we’re grateful to have you here today but grateful to have your partnership every day.

MS MYERS-POWELL:  Thank you.  Good afternoon.  My name is Brenda Myers-Powell.  I am a member of the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking.  Thank you for having me here today to speak on behalf of the Council.

The Council is sincerely grateful to the White House and each PITF agency for its efforts on combating human trafficking.  Many years ago, I heard an anonymous quote: “I’ve saved a thousand lives.  I could have saved a thousand more if they had only known they were slaves.”  For so long, I too did not fully comprehend what was happening to me.  I was entrapped.  This quote has been my clarion call.

For 25 years I worked the streets of Chicago fighting to bring awareness, fighting to bring services, fighting to bring justice for human trafficking survivors.  With my fellow Council members, we joined the fight together to help enhance your anti-trafficking efforts.  I am honored to be here today.

Over the years, the Council has discussed the importance of engaging survivor leaders.  We stand at a juncture on what it means to engage leaders who also happen to be survivors.  How can PITF agencies, as they strive to bring the voices of human trafficking survivors to the forefront, do that in a way that does not – is not tokenizing?  How can we effectively engage so that our leadership is not labeled only by our survivorship?  When and how can these labels be shed and the focus on our shared goals to combat human trafficking, where a leader is just that – one who leads and does not have to validate their leadership with a story of adversity?  A leader is a leader is a leader.

A new – as the newly appointed and reappointed members of the Council, we are grateful to the previous Council members for laying the foundation of our work.  While the Council has not yet decided on our 2023 priorities, we hope to work with the PITF agencies to continue to address gaps in the services for human trafficking survivors.

In our 2021 and ’22 reports, we identified many of these gaps, such as meeting survivors’ long-term needs, addressing the needs of historically underserved populations, and understanding the root causes of human trafficking.  In our ’22 report, we shared that people who have not experienced human trafficking have used language without fully understanding its impact on the people who have survived human trafficking.  Some of these words cloud the severity of the human trafficking.  We urge federal agencies to not perpetuate the use of language that causes harm and may undermine the progress made to end human trafficking.  We also shared the insights on ways federal agencies can increase efforts to protect the rights of crime victims and increase labor trafficking prosecutions.

On behalf of the Council, we look forward to collaborating with each of you as we narrow our priorities.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for having me here today.  This has been one for the memoirs.  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Brenda, thank you for that very powerful testimony.  And again, it’s wonderful to be able to partner with you and the entire Council.

So we’re now going to get a chance to hear from each of the 20 departments and agencies that are part of this effort.  Before I go around, I am going to use the prerogative of the chair to call upon myself representing the State Department – (laughter) – and give you a brief report on what we’ve been up to, and then we’ll have a chance to go around and hear from everyone.

But first, from the perspective of the Department, we have been working to ensure that our efforts are informed, as you’ve heard, by the expertise of survivors – teaming up not only with the U.S. Advisory Council, but also with specialists from the Department’s Human Trafficking Expert Consultant Network.  They are helping to prepare written materials to guide foreign governments, international and nongovernmental organizations, and companies that are trying to engage survivors, as well as making sure that the stories and images that we use in our annual report respect the privacy and dignity of victims.

Second, we have been doubling down on our commitment to prevent and address human trafficking through what our own department purchases.  That means better training in the acquisitions workforce – the team that buys everything from the State Department’s embassy building materials to security guard services – to ensure that our contractors have safeguards in place, to monitor compliance, to take appropriate action when there are violations.  And we look forward to sharing at least our own experience with this and maybe sharing some best practices and lessons learned with colleagues across the government.

Third, we’re working to prevent trafficking within the diplomatic community.  Through our Domestic Worker In-person Registration Program, we check on the welfare of domestic workers employed by representatives of foreign governments and international organizations here in the United States.  We’re expanding this program from just a few cities to in-person coverage nationwide.

Fourth, we are stepping up efforts to reduce forced youth begging and domestic work.  If you look at just West Africa alone, millions, millions of children are forced to endure abuse and work long hours for little or no pay.  Through several new programs in Liberia, in Niger, in Nigeria, we’re working to shift attitudes around what’s considered exploitative labor and provide alternatives that promote safety, security, and health for the young people across the region.

Finally, I just wanted to highlight that we are strengthening anti-trafficking collaboration with our closest neighbors in Mexico and in Canada.  We just had a North American Leaders’ Summit with President López Obrador and Prime Minister Trudeau.  Our three countries agreed at that meeting to resume the Trilateral Working Group on Trafficking in Persons this year.  That’s going to allow us to focus on cross-border aspects of human trafficking and actually collaborate on concrete solutions.  The United States and Mexico also signed what I think is an historic agreement to try to advance labor mobility and protect temporary foreign workers from exploitation, including human trafficking.

So those are just a few of the highlights of the work that we’ve been doing at the Department, but now I think we’re very anxious to hear from all of you and we’ll start to go around.  So Mr. Attorney General, Merrick, the floor is yours.

ATTORNEY GENERAL GARLAND:  Thanks, Tony.  Appreciate it.  I’ve got to turn that on.  At the Justice Department we are committed to combating this heinous crime from every angle.  This includes bringing traffickers to justice and vindicating the rights of victims and survivors.  We are expanding our capacity to prosecute perpetrators of human trafficking crimes across all 94 of our U.S. Attorneys Offices.  Prosecutors in our Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit work closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Offices and our law enforcement agencies to streamline investigations and to identify multijurisdictional trafficking networks.

In June 2021, we established Joint Task Force Alpha in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security.  The task force works within the United States and with our foreign partners in the Northern Triangle countries and Mexico to dismantle the most dangerous human trafficking and human smuggling networks.

Building on those activities, last year we launched our National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking to bring the full force of the Justice Department to this fight.  Since then, we have taken important steps to implement this strategy.  I’ll highlight just a few examples.

First, we have released an updated version of the Attorney General’s Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance.  This version incorporates enhanced protections and addresses specific considerations for vulnerable victims and members of marginalized communities.

Second, we are working with our interagency partners to improve identification of human trafficking victims encountered during law enforcement operations.  With the Department of Homeland Security and our other federal partners, we are developing a human trafficking victim screening protocol to advance victim-centered best practices across all federal enforcement agencies.  It will also serve as a model for our state, local, territorial, and Tribal enforcement partners.  And we continue to train all relevant department personnel on identifying trafficking victims during investigations involving other offenses, such as immigration and narcotics investigations.

Third, the Department’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit continues to lead the Interagency Forced Labor Initiative.  This initiative was launched last year with the FBI and our partners at Department of Labor and Department of Homeland Security.  Together we are expanding our capacity to assess forced labor threats, initiate investigations and prosecutions, and provide tailored expertise and guidance to advance district-level efforts to detect, investigate, and prosecute labor trafficking.

Finally, the government – the Department is helping build capacity to combat human trafficking nationwide.  In Fiscal Year 2023, our Office for Victims of Crime will disburse more than $95 million in grant funding to combat human trafficking and support victim and survivor services across the country.

The Department of Justice remains steadfast in our commitment to combating human trafficking and to the whole-of-government effort that this requires.  We look forward to our continued partnership with all of you in the days ahead.  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you very much, Attorney General.  When we were just talking before coming to this meeting, Ambassador Dyer was reminding me that she began as a prosecutor – it’s hard to believe a couple of decades ago – when many of the things that we’re dealing with now were not – there weren’t even crimes on the books that you could prosecute, so they would be sent over to the Special Victims Unit.  So one of the truly powerful and remarkable things is the fact there are many more tools now that – than we had just a few years ago.

ATTORNEY GENERAL GARLAND:  Well, if the ambassador wants to try a case for us, we’ll make you a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney.  (Laughter.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  We may take you up on that.  (Laughter.)

Secretary Mayorkas, Homeland Security.

SECRETARY MAYORKAS:  Thanks so much, Secretary Blinken.  First allow me to both congratulate and thank CDM and Blue Dot Initiative on this award and for the tremendous work underlying it.

A few weeks ago, I traveled to our newly authorized Center for Combating Human Trafficking.  I did so with Beth Neitzel, my colleague who really has been catalyzing our efforts in the Department of Homeland Security.  And we engaged with the people that do this work, that fight human trafficking day-in and day-out, and it was very, very moving to hear them speak of the fact that they see the worst of people and the best of people.  They tragically witness the capacity for individuals to inflict such cruelty on others, and yet on the other hand they work with victims, victims who become survivors, and it’s proof of the resilience of the human spirit.  It was very, very moving.

We in the Department of Homeland Security have really three lines of work.  One is to bring perpetrators to justice, working of course under the leadership of the Attorney General and Director Wray of the FBI.  We also work with victims to rescue victims, to develop for them the resources and the path to become survivors.  And we also focus, thirdly, on training – not just training of our law enforcement colleagues, but also training in the private sector so people are alert to and aware of the reality of human trafficking, know how to detect when something is amiss, and perhaps rescue some individuals.  And I’ll share an anecdote on that score.

But we have really doubled and tripled our efforts in this area.  It is one of our six mission priorities in the Department of Homeland Security – the fight against human trafficking.  And in that regard, just a few statistics that evidence our commitment to this.  Homeland Security Investigations, the criminal investigative arm of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, made 3,655 human trafficking arrests this past year, an increase of more than 50 percent over the last fiscal year.  And our human trafficking investigations led to 638 convictions thanks to the work of the Attorney General, an increase of more than 80 percent over the prior year.

On the subject of our work for and on behalf of victims – and we take a victim-centered approach to all of our work – our victim assistance specialists provided support to 765 victims; and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, which administers the legal immigration system, more than doubled the number of T visas that are available to victims of human trafficking this past fiscal year.

In keeping with and in furtherance of our victim-centered approach to this work, last year we increased our victim assistance personnel by 40 percent. Liz Sherwood-Randall referenced our enforcement of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which is a new statute we’re very – very proud to enforce.

On the training front, Beth and I met with the chief executive officer of a major hotel chain, worldwide hotel chain, who was speaking of the impact of the training that we provide through our Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, FLETC.  And just a few weeks prior to our meeting, one of the hotel clerks in this chain observed a young woman looking at bit lost in the lobby, and by virtue of the training that we had provided that clerk knew to call law enforcement, alert law enforcement to what appeared to be an unusually disoriented individual in the lobby of a hotel, where normally people know where they are coming from and going to.  And law enforcement followed this young woman to the parking lot, and sure enough she led law enforcement unwittingly to five vans filled with young women who were on their path to being trafficked.

And we were very proud of that anecdote.  It speaks of the impact that we can have all around this table and all across this room, and it also speaks to the urgency of the need to do this work, and we’re really proud to be a part of this task force.  Thank you, Secretary Blinken.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Ale, thank you very much for sharing the anecdote, but thank you especially for all of the focus, the time, the resources, the effort that the Department’s been putting to trafficking.

Secretary Becerra, Xavier, Secretary of Health and Human Services.

SECRETARY BECERRA:  Secretary Blinken and my colleagues, and especially to those who have lived the experience and who are daily on the front lines protecting and – not only protecting but also making sure that they are saving lives – I want to thank them very much.

At HHS, we have focused our efforts principally, when it comes to combating human trafficking, on preventing trafficking of children and youth, of strengthening our partnerships to prevent forced labor in public health supply chains, and in advancing understanding of human trafficking trends by coming up with the data that can be so helpful in this regard.  Just last month, we gathered leaders from our Office of Trafficking in Persons, Child Welfare, and the Runaway and Homeless Youth system to host a national briefing on human trafficking prevention for child welfare workers and other partners on the ground.

In December, our Administration for Children and Families launched new training and resources targeting child welfare workers that was informed by survivors and those with lived experience.  Last month as well, ACF also announced a $2.5 million dollar funding grant for schools to develop and implement education for school staff and students to prevent human trafficking. And we published a Human Trafficking School Safety Protocol Toolkit to address the security and well-being of students.

When it comes to the issue of forced labor, what we are doing there, January of this month – of this year, excuse me – ACF announced HHS’s establishment of a new public-private partnership co-chaired by Northwell Health, which is New York’s largest health care provider, to enhance training and resources to prevent forced labor in health care and public health supply chains, which, as a result of COVID, I think became very obvious – and sometimes it’s disguised, but it is out there – that people are being forced to do work with very little pay in most cases.  The working group is comprised of federal agencies, industry, individuals with lived experience, and other subject matter experts.

Then it – when it comes to the issue of enhancing our abilities to understand human trafficking trends, we – last year, we published a number of reports and information briefs to advance understanding of how human trafficking has evolved and what we can collectively do to combat it.  It has become a technology now to be able to track people without ever having to physically connect with folks.  Our publications focus on the increase in technology-facilitated trafficking during the pandemic, advances in public health responses to preventing human trafficking, and impact on human trafficking and human services systems.

In 2023, we will continue to modernize our government services to streamline data collection while decreasing burden on the public, and we will expand our anti-trafficking information management system and publish more HHS data on human trafficking through our open data platform.

And finally, I just wanted to mention one other thing that often will get neglected, and that is we took an action in December which included the – our Administration for Children and Families publication of human trafficking prevention resources for individuals from Ukraine who came into the U.S.  And we wanted to make sure we reached this population early, because we know how vulnerable they would be and how susceptible they might become to human trafficking.

Turn it back over to you, Secretary.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Xavier, thank you very much.  Thank you for sharing all the great work that HHS is doing.  And the education piece I think is critical.  And thanks for the last point that you made because I think we see when societies in other parts of the world are in crisis for one reason or another and people are forcibly displaced from their homes, this of course is a prime target for those who would exploit them in one way or another.

And I’d only emphasize the fact that right now, around the world, we are living through the most significant migration challenge in history ever since we’ve been done recording this.  There are more than 100 million people around the world who have been forcibly displaced from their homes in one way or another, and of course that’s exactly the kind of population that is most ripe to be exploited and in one way or another.  So that vigilance is hugely important; thanks for underscoring it.

Transportation Secretary Buttigieg, Pete, over to you.

SECRETARY BUTTIGIEG:  Thank you, Secretary Blinken.  Thanks to everyone here for the terrific work, and let me add my congratulations to the award recipients today.

I think we’re here mindful that the work we’re doing can make enormous differences in the lives of some of the most vulnerable people of every age and gender, in urban and rural areas alike, in the U.S. and across the globe, whose freedom and bodily autonomy are taken away from them.  I also think that the scale of this evil is so widespread and its nature is so diffuse that it often feels daunting to take on, but our work is guided by the knowledge that there are a number of approaches and steps that have been demonstrated to concretely matter in successfully combating human trafficking and staying a step ahead of those who are involved in in this crime.

For us at the DOT, key to our strategy is to recognize that it is not just up to those whose job is to think about this every day, but really up to everyone.  So we aim to empower America’s transportation workforce, which is millions strong, and the traveling public, which is hundreds of millions strong, to be the eyes and ears of our collective effort.  They can then be the force multiplier that helps us to win this battle.

Trafficking, of course, in its literal sense involves movement along our roads, along our rails, our airways, and our waterways.  And during that transit, there are so often opportunities to spot evidence and instances of human trafficking – as in the case that Secretary Mayorkas described – if those transportation and transportation-related employees and travelers know what to look for and feel empowered to call in a tip.

So with that overall strategic framework, a bit of an update on our work.  This year we’re continuing to work with transportation stakeholders across the country, including over 550 transportation leaders and organizations now who have signed our pledge against human trafficking and have committed to train more than 1.3 million employees.  We’ll continue to require every state to permanently ban drivers convicted of human trafficking from operating commercial vehicles.  And through our Combating Human Trafficking in Transportation Impact Award, we’re working to lift up innovative and scalable solutions, most recently highlighting those launched by the Port of Seattle.

In Montreal last fall, I was with our Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs Annie Petsonk and other DOT colleagues as the U.S. delegation that we led pressed 193 countries in the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization, ICAO, to adopt a resolution urging member-states to put that kind of DOT-led counter-trafficking strategy into force.  And taking our work a step further, we’re standing up a rechartered advisory committee so that it can begin developing new best practices and recommendations across all modes of transportation.

We’re also soon going to be engaging with owners and operators of aircraft, airports, truck stops, buses, trains, and stations to advertise that National Human Trafficking Hotline in their facilities, including in their restrooms.

Lastly, let me just echo Secretary Blinken’s remark that this is not a partisan issue.  It has really crossed political boundaries, and I want to recognize that we are building on good work that was done by my predecessor, Secretary Chao, and recognize the progress that was made there.

So we will continue to work with our partners at Homeland Security, DOJ, across the interagency with the goal of preventing this crime from happening, protecting its victims, and supporting the prosecution of perpetrators.  And we will continue to work toward that important mission.  Thank everybody here for the extraordinary efforts to combat this unspeakable crime.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Pete, thank you very much, and thank you for the very powerful point about empowering others to help be eyes and ears and engage on this.  That – you can see the multiplier effect of that in a very, very powerful way.

Director of National Intelligence, Dr. Haines, Avril.

MS HAINES:  Thank you so much, Tony.  Thanks to all of you and, Ambassador, particularly for your work in this area.

I am here really to say that global human trafficking is an area of focus for the Intelligence Community, and I am grateful to have an opportunity to talk about our work on this issue and the role we play alongside so many of my colleagues.  Global human trafficking, whether forced labor or sex trafficking, is a serious threat to U.S. national security.  And the Intelligence Community is committed to supporting the federal government’s efforts in this arena, to include implementing, obviously, the updated National Action Plan.

Human trafficking, in addition to the heinous toll it takes on human beings, provides a reliable source of revenue, generating billions of dollars annually to illicit actors and governments engaged in forced labor.  The scale and severity of global human trafficking is moreover affected by increased migration, as you identified, Tony, in the context of Ukraine and in other places, and displacement resulting from complex economic crises, environmental change.  And these issues, along with cyber-based trafficking and the corrupt actors and networks involved in global human trafficking, are all matters that the Intelligence Community is committed to monitoring, understanding, and ultimately providing information on to operators and to policymakers who are focused on countering the threat.

And not only do we see the way in which human trafficking fuels the growth of organized crime and deprives people of human rights and freedoms, but also how it negatively affects global health and longstanding psychological and physical effects on individuals, on families, and on communities.  And the Intelligence Community, in an effort to enhance our efforts to counter human trafficking, is working closely with other government agencies to improve information sharing on trafficking in support of law enforcement, while also providing analysis regarding the threat of global human trafficking in – to U.S. interests in an effort to help policymakers address the broader challenge.

Last year, I shared with you that the intelligence and law enforcement communities had jointly authored the first intelligence assessment on the impact of human trafficking on the United States – just so you know that it’s not small – on the United States.  And we had worked with the Department of Homeland Security to build a collaborative, unclassified, but safe workspace in which we could share intelligence and law enforcement data.  And I’m proud to say that we launched the platform, but it is still in an early stage of growth, frankly, and over the coming year we hope to see it realize the potential, allowing us to bring together relevant intelligence with federal, state, local, Tribal law enforcement data for interagency use.

Among other things, we expect the platform to contribute to the sharing of information regarding the use of technological advances, such as the dark web, cryptocurrencies, anonymous payment platforms that all facilitate human trafficking.  In the last year, we’ve also increased our reporting and analytic production on this subject alongside our work on transnational organized crime more generally.  And we are furthermore developing our capacity to monitor the use of forced labor in global supply chains, including their networks, for moving services into the United States and into allied and partner countries, which should give policymakers more options for countering forced labor.

Our goal more generally is to ensure the gravity and nuance of the human trafficking problem is well understood and to support the policy and law enforcement community in countering such trafficking.

So thank you very much for the opportunity to talk about what the Intelligence Community hopes to contribute and continue to contribute on this issue.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Avril, thank you very much.  And it really sounds like this initiative to try to share information and share intelligence – state, local, federal, international levels – can be a very, very strong tool in dealing with this.  So thank you for that initiative.

Over to Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, our ambassador to the United Nations.  Linda.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  Thank you, Secretary Blinken.  And thank you so much, Ambassador Dyer.  Welcome.  Congratulations to the three – two recipients of the award.  What you’re doing makes what we’re doing so much more rewarding.

At the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, we work with our allies and partners in Vienna, in Geneva, in New York, and throughout the UN system to make combating human trafficking one of our biggest priorities.  At major convenings, like last year’s Commission on the Status of Women and during the UN General Assembly, we fought for agreement on international accountability mechanisms to counter human trafficking.  In New York, we work with the Government of the Philippines and other partners to advance our priorities in a biennial anti-trafficking resolution.  And in our negotiations, we stress the importance of implementing the Palermo Protocol and Global Plan of Action to combat trafficking in persons.

Throughout, we are emphasizing the ways trafficking intersects with other issues, like gender-based violence, and ensuring we directly support and lift up those with the lived experience of human trafficking.

In 2023, we will use our status as a member of the Human Rights Council to further advance our anti-trafficking priorities.  Specifically, we will encourage the United Nations and fellow member-states to develop trauma-informed, survivor-led responses.  We must always put the people who have experienced the horrors of trafficking first.  In particular, we will strengthen services for victims from underserved and marginalized populations, and we will address forced labor in supply chains.  Going forward, we are prepared to engage on a difficult but important resolution improving anti-trafficking coordination.

Our fight to elevate this issue will mean highlighting related issues, too.  For example, the pandemic has led not only to higher rates of forced and early marriages, but also spiking rates of gender-based violence.  And with Russia’s war on Ukraine, Under-Secretary-General Griffiths briefed us in the Security Council on the high levels of sexual violence and human trafficking Ukrainian women are encountering every single day.  Human traffickers prey on refugee crisis; they prey on the vulnerable.  The elevated threat the people fleeing Ukraine face, especially women and children, is yet another horrific outcome of Russia’s illegal war.

At the UN, we will continue to engage vigorously with fellow member-states to address this and to combat human trafficking across the globe.  And I want to particularly thank the President and the Vice President for their efforts and encouraging us here, and particularly I want to thank you, Secretary Blinken, for your leadership on this important issue.  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Linda, my thanks to you and, really, thanks for taking this fight global, quite literally.  I think it’s a very critical forum for actually getting some shared norms, standards, approaches, and really appreciate that effort.

Over to the Department of Defense and Deputy Secretary Hicks. Kathleen, over to you.

MS HICKS:  Great, thanks very much, and good afternoon.  Let me add my congratulations to the 2022 Presidential Award recipients, and thank you for your incredibly impactful work.

The Department of Defense takes seriously its role in monitoring and combating human trafficking.  We are focused on expanding trainings, preventing the sale of goods produced by force or child labor in DoD outlets, and encouraging and empowering survivors.  We are developing specialized anti-human trafficking training for some of our most important first responders in the Defense Department – our health care professionals, and our chaplains.  We’re confident these training courses will help key members of DoD’s 140,000 health care professionals and 2,700 chaplains better recognize and appropriately respond to victims of human trafficking with trauma-informed care.

To ensure that the Department is not unintentionally complicit or contributing to human trafficking through the resale of goods produced by forced or child labor, we are developing Department-wide guidance to prevent the sale of such goods in DoD’s commissaries and exchanges, and to hold ourselves and our contractors to the highest standards in procuring and producing goods, supplies, and services.

Finally, we are continuing to grow our public repository of survivor stories to empower them to reclaim their lives.  The repository can be found at  We added three stories in the first quarter of this year, and we will add at least three more stories in the next several months.

Let me just close by extending my thanks to Secretary Blinken for leading the efforts here to end all human trafficking.  And please be assured that Secretary Austin, who is currently in Europe, and the entire Department of Defense are all in to help.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Kathleen, thank you very, very much.  And also, thanks for noting the work that you’re doing on having these shared stories.  I think we all know that these numbers are overwhelming, statistics are overwhelming, and we can grasp them I think intellectually, but what really makes a difference is what we can grasp here.  And the stories are the things that really resonate and that are powerful.  So it’s a great, great initiative.

Can we go now to the Interior and the deputy secretary, Tommy Beaudreau?

MR BEAUDREAU:  Thanks so much, Secretary Blinken.  And it is a pleasure to join all of you.  It’s also an honor to be in an administration that has prioritized these issues as highly as it has.

Speaking for my boss, Secretary Haaland, who’s not here today because – in working with the State Department, she’s joining Ambassador Kennedy and Udall in Australia and New Zealand to, among other things, work specifically on these issues as they affect indigenous people around the world.  In bringing that lens to this suite of issues, I recall then-Vice President Biden speaking at a Tribal Nations Summit during – I guess it would have been 2016, and spoke specifically about the work on the Violence Against Women Act and the jurisdictional changes that Secretary Blinken highlighted in his opening remarks.

That set a tone that has encouraged Indian Country to work with federal and state and local partners to address this scourge that is very real in Indian Country, particularly with respect to women and children as among the most vulnerable populations to this type of criminal activity. And so that work carries forth, including in this task force.  And on behalf of Secretary Haaland, I want to express her profound appreciation for everything folks in this room are doing.

So last year, Secretary Haaland announced the formation of the Missing and Murdered Unit, MMU, within the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services, focused specifically on investigating cases related to missing and murdering indigenous peoples.  The MMU is headquartered in Albuquerque and has established 19 offices in 11 states.  To date, the MMU has investigated 661 missing and murdered person cases, closed 203 of those cases, and resolved seven murder cases in particular.

The Department of the Interior alongside DOJ is continuing to implement the Not Invisible Act Commission.  This commission is drafting recommendations to combat the MMIP crisis through the formation of six subcommittees.  Each of these subcommittees focuses on specific public safety and justice issues, including addressing human trafficking.  In the coming months, the commission will host in-person and virtual hearings across the country to gather public comments for inclusion in the commission’s final report to Secretary Haaland and the Attorney General.

Additionally, the department’s Office of Law Enforcement and Security Victim Assistance Programs is finalizing a human trafficking awareness training that will be available to all 70,000 of our employees, going to the points about increasing our eyes and ears across the landscape.  This program is also developing video training for our law enforcement officers that highlight trauma-informed approaches and best practices for assisting victims of human trafficking, sexual assault, domestic violence, and other types of crimes.

So we’re grateful that this administration continues to prioritize these issues in the way it does, and I look forward to the continued work of the task force and our coordination across the entire federal family on these issues.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you very much, Deputy Secretary, and also just want to underscore something that you just said that I think is very important.  Given the size of the federal workforce, the training that we can do just within our own departments and agencies can make a huge difference, again, in being a force multiplier, as Secretary Buttigieg was saying in a different way.  So I strongly encourage that.

And also, thanks for referencing the Violence Against Women Act as a sort of stage-setter for this.  I think I’m – it’s safe for me to say that if you asked President Biden the achievement that he is proudest of over his many years in public service, he’d say the Violence Against Women Act, and the connection between the two is a powerful one, so thanks for sharing that.

Can we go now to the Department of Agriculture and to Deputy Secretary Bronaugh?

MS BRONAUGH:  Thank you, Secretary Blinken.  Good afternoon.  On behalf of Secretary Vilsack and USDA, it is certainly an honor to be here today for this important discussion.  Certainly, the COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on the importance of farm workers and their contributions to our nation’s food security.  It also simultaneously highlighted the challenges of labor instability, irregular migration, and the need for increased labor protections to increase the resiliency of our food system and supply chain.

While there are several factors that drive the presence of human trafficking, persistent and disproportionate poverty rates are often a major contributing factor in both domestic and foreign populations.  All Americans benefit from investments that provide consistent access to safe, healthy, and affordable food.  In part, it means that we’re building a fair, equitable, and resilient food system that benefits workers, producers, and consumers.

And at USDA, we have two efforts underway with a direct connection to this body’s work on human trafficking and numerous efforts that are focused on farm workers, frontline food and agriculture workers, and equity more broadly.  One effort has to do with procurement and how that intersects with agricultural worker safety.  USDA is a major purchaser of food, and the food that USDA purchases goes to schools and national school breakfast and lunch programs and food banks around the country.  A second effort is a collaboration with other federal agencies to develop a pilot program to support agricultural employers in implementing robust standards to promote a safe and healthy work environment for both U.S. workers and migrant workers in the seasonal H-2A visa program.

The program will advance several administration priorities.  One is driving U.S. economic recovery and safeguarding domestic food security by addressing current labor shortages in agriculture, reducing irregular migration through the expansion of legal pathways for people in the Northern Triangle – Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, improving working protections for farm workers to curb the potential for human trafficking and other exploitation during the recruitment process and on the farms in our communities.

Beyond these efforts, know that USDA has established an independent equity commission to examine USDA programs and services, to include how we can better provide farm worker resources and support and create safe and healthy working environments.  I am privileged to be the co-chair of the equity commission, which will provide a set of recommendations to USDA for how we can take additional steps to address systemic inequities and eliminate barriers to access in our programs at USDA.

One place I’d like to make an observation for this group to consider is that while USDA has explicit prohibitions on providing many grants and loans to businesses or producers with labor violations, most certainly including human trafficking, our ability to enforce this is only as good as the information we have.  One place where more information could be useful is to determine precisely how we are coordinating across government to ensure we have the best available data at hand and we can put it to use.  Access to good data will assist us all in ensuring we can make the biggest impact with our resources.

Thank you again, and again, USDA is pleased to be a part of this hugely important effort.  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you very much for sharing all of the very good work, and I would just foot-stomp the last point that you made about the importance of information-sharing in all sorts of ways across the government.  We’ll look for ways to maximize that.  Very much appreciate it.

Next over to the Department of Education and Deputy Secretary Marten.

MS MARTEN:  Thank you, Secretary Blinken.  On behalf of Secretary Cardona, we definitely want to underscore the importance of not just recognizing but preventing and responding to human trafficking and all of the authorities that we have and the supports that we can put in place, and the Department of Education’s commitment to supporting the National Action Plan and everything that we can do to combat human trafficking by doing our part to raise awareness around human trafficking in our school communities as well as offer all of the resources for the administrators that are in our schools, the teachers, the specialized instructional support personnel that work directly with students, our parents, our caregivers, and students directly, understanding student voice and listening to our students and being as proximate to the problems that we’re trying to solve as we combat human trafficking.

I also want to share my experience as a former teacher.  This is my 34th year in education, and as a principal of an elementary school in San Diego and a superintendent in San Diego, a border city where human trafficking was a significant problem that we are working to solve across government and the local area, we’re a $110 million industry in San Diego, San Diego being one of the top 13 cities in the country, according to the FBI, for human trafficking.  So it’s something that I bring deep personal experience leading a whole of at least community approach in San Diego as I now serve in this capacity and what it takes to work at all levels to combat trafficking across the system.

And now, as I work within the Department of Education and with our Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, we have a specific Office of Safe and Supportive Schools that’s responsible for carrying out our role in combating both labor and sex trafficking.  And it’s in support of the National Action Plan that we’re going to work to combat human trafficking.  We’re responsible for making our guidance available to the systems that need it most and to help schools identify and respond to human trafficking and child exploitation by providing the supports and resources that will be most beneficial and helpful at the local level, closest to the student.

This is why we support the National Action Plan in a number of ways, including through a series of webinars that we’ve hosted to share information and resources related to trafficking.  In January we held a webinar titled “Supporting Students Who Have Experienced Familial Human Trafficking,” and that webinar included persons with lived experiences – that is, being trafficked by a family member – and to be able to hear their moving presentations and allow a moment where it can resonate and take us to action, and we can be informed by the stories.  And there were over 700 participants in that webinar that we hosted.

A second in this miniseries was in January.  We focused on family as anti-trafficking supporters, and once again, we heard from those with real lived experiences.  And that information about all of those webinars from the last several years is available on the events webpage on the National Center of Safe and Supportive Learning Environments, on that website, so if people didn’t participate, it lives on for us to point to as a resource for those to tap into.

I’m also very proud of the professional development series that we made available to schools to use for staff training sessions.  We produce the Human Trafficking in America’s Schools staff development series, and that was meant to be a complement to our popular resource document called Human Trafficking in America’s Schools.  This staff development series is comprised of three brief online videos that includes the subject matter experts who know the most about this and includes, of course, again, those with lived experiences in trafficking.  And we were able to share with school personnel what they need to know to make the biggest difference and have real discussion questions about what to do to help individual staff members and teams of staff members to explore afterwards with one another what can they do to take this to concrete action now and produce posters, social media website graphics, and key documents that they could use to help spread the key messages from that.

I want to say it’s been helpful to hear about the great work of all the agencies.  This whole-of-government approach, as a school leader, is the best and most helpful, that we can work on this together.  And I want to say that the investments that the federal government is making, whether it’s the bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the community schools grants – so many of the reasons why we saw young people being taken into trafficking is because something else that was lacking in their lives.  They were seeking connection; they were seeking finances, maybe for their family; they were seeking something to help social, emotional, mental health or well-being, wanting to belong, and then they fall victim.

When we can double the amount of counselors – which President Biden has been committed to, Secretary Cardona, and all of our investments – we can get at the root causes of students not wanting to seek something outside of themselves.  So I think the other – doubling the counselors, having more mental health professionals connected to schools is another way with the huge investments that we’re seeing, this major commitment to our students is going to help in that way too.  And thank you, Secretary Blinken, for your leadership on this.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Again, thank you for sharing that.  It’s hard to imagine having a greater impact than raising awareness, raising visibility in our schools, both among students and among administrators, and then, as you said, bringing to bear some of the additional resources that would be so critical, particularly when it comes to mental health.  So thank you for sharing that.

We go now to perhaps the most important agency or department in our government, and I say that not just because it’s budget season here – (laughter) – but to the Office of Management and Budget and the deputy director, Nani Coloretti.  Over to you.

MS COLORETTI:  Thank you.  I come here representing Director Shalanda Young and want to say thanks to Secretary Blinken for your continued focus on anti-trafficking and for convening this group.  It is budget season, so Director Young is not here.  You just have me, the number two.

But listen, I wanted to also thank the career staff at OMB and at every agency, because you’re doing a lot of collaborative work and forward-leaning work to address this important issue.  We were encouraged by the recent passage of the full-year appropriation for FY 2023, and we look forward to working with all departments and agencies to prioritize human trafficking in your planned uses of your funds, so that’s something we’re looking forward to do.

And then in addition to the budget, OMB continues to actively promote agency management efforts to eliminate trafficking in federal contractor supply chains in our role as the co-chair of the Senior Policy Operating Group’s Procurement and Supply Chains Committee.  And Ambassador Dyer mentioned this and some of the other agencies mentioned their work on procurement.

I want to just emphasize this for a second.  The effort covers over $630 billion of federal contract spending per year, so we can use our spending power to help combat human trafficking.  So these management efforts include working with agency colleagues to identify areas of spend that have increased risk of trafficking and leveraging best practices for reducing the risk of forced labor.

In furtherance of the National Action Plan, we also partnered with Department of State, Department of Labor to cohost a public meeting last month that I think Ambassador Dyer also mentioned.  We heard from victims, NGOs, and government entities on additional steps to take more – to be more effective and more effectively implement our statutory and regulatory responsibilities.  So we’re continuing our efforts to take a victim-centered approach to this work.

We also worked with GSA’s Federal Acquisition Institute to give our contractors and subcontractors access to the same training courses offered to our acquisition workforce.  And this helps combat trafficking in – so that you can better understand the legal and regulatory requirements for protecting U.S. government contracts from forced labor.

So we will continue to support the Department of State’s international engagements to not only increase protections against human trafficking in public procurement worldwide, but to also better align our efforts and practices across countries wherever possible.  So we look forward to our continued partnership with this task force and federal suppliers to combat human trafficking.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you, and thank you very much for the focus that OMB is bringing to this.  And I know I speak for all my colleagues in saying we also very much welcome having all of our budget requests fulfilled in trafficking area and beyond, for that matter.  (Laughter.)

Can we go now to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Jayme White?

MR WHITE:  Thank you, Secretary Blinken.  It’s a real honor to be here to share what we are doing together to contribute to the administration’s commitment to combat human trafficking and defend human dignity.  President Biden is clear that forced labor will not be accepted in the United States or anywhere around the world, and I am proud to work for a president that understands the role trade policy plays in addressing this issue.

Earlier decades have given us cheap goods but growing inequality, and workers and communities were displaced and left behind, with the most extreme consequence resulting in human trafficking and forced labor.  Whether it’s the cotton in the clothes we wear or the metals in the cars we drive, these abuses threaten to undermine the very fabric of our global trading system.

That is why we need a human-centric approach to trade.  That means seeing the people at each stage of our supply chains and worker – and working to promote workers’ rights.  That also means using trade as a force for good to address inequity and to improve the livelihoods for more of our citizens.  This is foundational to the administration’s worker-centric trade policy.  These values are at the heart of our trade initiatives, including the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework negotiations, our new initiations – initiatives with Kenya and Taiwan, and work on fishery subsidies at the WTO.

Last year, Ambassador Tai announced that USTR will develop its first-ever trade strategy to combat forced labor.  Our teams are hard at work to ensure that trade elevates workers everywhere.  But the United States cannot do this alone.  We have been teaming up with likeminded partners to pursue our common ideals and to deliver concrete actions to combat forced labor.

This includes three examples:  first, issuing a trilateral joint statement with the trade and labor ministers in Japan and the European Union under the trilateral partnership to raise awareness on forced labor globally; second, launching the U.S.-EU Trade and Labor Dialogue to bring labor, business, and government representatives together to collaborate on combating forced labor in our supply chains and exploring digital trade issues; lastly, establishing the U.S.-Japan Task Force to Promote Human Rights and International Labor Standards in Supply Chains under the U.S.-Japan trade partnership.

I want to really acknowledge the work of the Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force and all of our staff that worked hard in record time over the last year to implement the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act.  This is really a team effort.  Through each of these efforts, we are bringing together all stakeholders – labor organizations, government, civil societies, survivors, and business – to use trade as a tool to root out human trafficking and forced labor, and this is just the beginning of our work.

Together we will continue to push ahead for a more just and freer world, to hear from all voices, to support power and agency for workers, their communities, and for our common good.  Thanks.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I really very much appreciate that, and I think we’re seeing tremendous collaboration too among – with USTR, State, Commerce, Labor, particularly getting other countries to adopt some of the same practices that we’re now adopting – so much more effective and powerful that way – and hopefully creating a race to the top around the world.  Thank you.

Can we turn now to the U.S. Agency for International Development and Director Power?  Sam.

MS POWER:  Thank you so much, Mr. Secretary.  Thanks to all the colleagues we’ve heard from today.  I think I date myself, but this may be my sixth task force meeting, and I can say it is a breath of fresh air just to hear about how much more is being achieved every year, how much more of a priority this is, how embedded this work is into the DNA of all of our agencies in a way it just wasn’t even a decade ago.  Ambassador, welcome aboard.  We all look forward to working closely with you.  And again, going around this is very inspiring.

USAID over the last two decades has demonstrated its commitment to combating trafficking through around $340 million invested in more than 88 countries and touching on, I think, all of the categories of work that have been described here – preventing trafficking, protecting victims, and prosecuting perpetrators.  This past year we invested $36 million to counter trafficking in 30 countries, and just illustratively, these resources go to strengthening labor organizations so that they can fight for fair labor in their countries; preventing forced labor in supply chains, including funding, for example, reports on forced labor in the Xinjiang supply chains, particularly as it relates to cotton; and, of course, very supportive of the work on solar that DHS and DOL and others have been so active on; protecting migrants who might be vulnerable, including sudden crisis situations like that in Ukraine, where we work so closely with the State Department to do that; and promoting trauma-infused counseling for survivors of trafficking.

When we gathered last year, I shared that USAID had just launched a new countering trafficking in persons policy.  And over the past year, we’ve implemented these policies in our bureaus and missions around the world.  We are already seeing the strategy drive promising results on the ground.  I don’t have time to get into much about that, but I just want to highlight one new aspect of this strategy, which is a heightened emphasis on work with local organizations who lead the fight against trafficking in their own communities but to whom resources have often not naturally flowed.

It takes significant investments to find, vet, and builds partnerships with these local organizations, these community-based organizations, but we are making it a priority because we know that local leaders have the firsthand experience to understand how trafficking is affecting their communities, and they have the relationships and the credibility to drive significant and lasting reforms.

In our push to go local to combat human trafficking, I just want to share one story, because perhaps no one embodies our relative impact here in pushing in this direction more than a man named Caleb Thole.  So Caleb is a community leader from Malawi who has given us permission to share his story here today.  In 2010 Caleb’s family received a harrowing phone call from a man who told them that he had abducted their aunt Eneless and would only release her if the family paid a ransom that they could not afford.  Eneless’s captors took her far away from home, forced her to smuggle drugs, and repeatedly assaulted her.  Months later, law enforcement finally rescued Eneless over 1,200 miles away in Johannesburg.

And Caleb learned that his aunt was not alone in her experience, much like Secretary Mayorkas’s story a while ago – 15 other Malawian women had been taken alongside her.  Seeing how many people were forced to endure such horrific treatment, Caleb decided to take it on himself to do something to prevent human trafficking in his community.  He started an organization called Global Hope Mobilization.  And with support from USAID, Global Hope is creating campaigns with local religious and community leaders to inform people of the dangers of human trafficking and ways to keep themselves and their communities safe.  They’re also working with survivors to report offenders, and with Malawian courts to prosecute cases and swiftly bring traffickers to justice.  And in partnership with the Malawian Ministry of Gender, they are managing shelters for survivors and creating vocational training to help survivors re-enter the workforce.

In USAID’s 22 years of anti-trafficking work across 88 countries, we’ve seen that while the burden of human trafficking is global, local leaders like Caleb rising up to keep the people around them safe often drive the most effective and certainly the most sustainable solutions. So we will continue to empower those leaders as we execute on our new strategy and work alongside all of you to support President Biden’s National Action Plan to counter trafficking in all its forms.  Thank you so much.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Sam, thank you very much.  Thanks for sharing the insights, and thank you especially for USAID’s incredible work around the world.  It really is where the rubber meets the road in so much of what we do, and the ability to empower some of these local groups as well as leaders makes all the difference.  Thank you.

Can we go next to the Department of the Treasury and to Under Secretary Nelson?  Brian.

MR NELSON:  Thanks so much.  Thank you, Secretary Blinken, and thank you to the presidential award recipients.

On behalf of Secretary Yellen, it’s an honor to discuss Treasury’s work to combat human trafficking.  Beyond human trafficking’s enormous costs, it is – human costs, it is estimated that the world’s most – one of the world’s most profitable criminal enterprises.  Last year, the Treasury Department identified money laundering linked to human trafficking as among the most significant illicit finance threats facing the United States.  A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to be in San Diego to have a frontline conversation with law enforcement partners about how we can best pursue these profits – follow the money – to combat these crimes, disrupt illicit networks, and seek justice for victims of trafficking.

In support of the National Action Plan, Treasury will continue to leverage all of its tools and authorities to counter those engaged in human trafficking. With each action, we send a powerful and unequivocal message that the United States will not tolerate the exploitation of human beings.  The work starts by closing the financial loopholes in the United States anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism framework that human traffickers and criminal networks use to launder, move, or stash their illicit proceeds.

For example, we are currently working diligently to implement the Corporate Transparency Act, which will bring greater transparency to company ownership and make it harder for illicit actors like human traffickers to exploit shell and front companies to launder ill-gotten gains.  These efforts will help prevent human traffickers and other criminals from seeking impunity through financial anonymity.

Treasury is also working closely with the private sector to combat human trafficking.  Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, known as FinCEN, published advisories in 2014 as well as in 2020 highlighting for U.S. financial institutions, both big and small, the critical role they can play in identifying and reporting transactions related to these illicit activities.

Human trafficking also remains a focus of Treasury’s engagement with our foreign partners.  This year, in fact, we featured in Treasury’s work counterparts in Mexico as we made joint strides in pursuing human traffickers by blocking their accounts and targeting their illicit financial networks.

We’re also playing a large role in shaping the global financial fight against human trafficking and through international forums like the Financial Action Task Force and the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units.  There, we continue to raise awareness about these issues, enhance global standards to combat illicit finance, and exchange information about these networks.

We are focused on delivering justice and accountability to human traffickers and their networks.  We continue to work closely with our law enforcement colleagues, and we are prepared to impose significant financial consequences on those responsible for these injustices, including by freezing their assets and cutting off their access to the U.S. financial system.  We are also committed to using, where relevant and appropriate, sanctions authorities to designate perpetrators of human trafficking, including forced labor.

Through these efforts, we’re preventing human traffickers from misusing the financial system. We’re partnering with the private sector and the international community.  And we’re pursuing those responsible for these horrendous crimes.  We will continue to look forward to deepening that work and to work with you all to counter this incredibly grave threat.  Thanks so much.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Brian, thank you very, very much.  And I think you said the three magic words:  follow the money.  But a really important reminder that this is big business, and Treasury has unique tools to really get at it.  So thank you.  And can we go now to the Commerce Department, Marisa Lago, the Under Secretary?  Over to you.

MS LAGO:  Thank you.  On behalf of Secretary Raimondo, I will touch upon three specific ways that the Department of Commerce is proud to contribute to the work of this task force.  First, the International Trade Administration’s strong relationship with industry provides us a unique opportunity to collaborate with the private sector to convey critical information about human trafficking and forced labor in foreign markets, including via the excellent training that Ambassador Dyer mentioned earlier.

Second, Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security continually works with other U.S. government agencies to ensure that foreign governments and foreign companies that exploit forced labor are constrained in their ability to access U.S. technology, software, and commodities.

Finally, the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, more easily said as NOAA, worked with Customs and Border Protection and other agencies to identify potential forced labor practices on fishing vessels as well as in fishery products that may have been produced using forced labor.  NOAA convened senior government officials from a host of U.S. government agencies and key leaders from industry, NGOs, retailers, foundations, and workers’ organizations at a call to action national summit, and they discussed the shared goal of supporting decent working conditions in the seafood sector.

NOAA also facilitated a panel discussion during the annual Seafood Expo North America that brought together U.S. government and outside stakeholders as part of a 21-member U.S. interagency working group on illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.  The working group focused on the current landscape, challenges, and innovative opportunities to leverage public-private expertise and resources to combat labor issues in the seafood sector.

Thank you again for allowing the Department of Commerce to participate in this task force.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Marisa, thank you very for Commerce’s leadership on this and also for underscoring the importance of these public-private partnerships in getting at this. Appreciate that very much.

Director of the FBI, Director Wray, thank you for joining us today.  Over to you.

MR WRAY:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  I appreciate the opportunity to be with all of you to talk about such a compelling issue.  Human trafficking is one of the most horrific of a long list of crimes the FBI investigates, and I say that both because it feeds on a vicious and appalling cycle of force, fraud, and coercion, but also because our cases show that a significant majority of the sex trafficking victims we confront – over two-thirds – are kids.  And more and more, we also see that the criminal enterprises perpetuating human trafficking have their tendrils in a variety of other crimes, including prostitution, the production of child sexual abuse material, and money laundering.  And every single one of our 56 field offices across the U.S. is tackling human trafficking in their areas, and because of the international nature of these crimes, which many others have already cited, we regularly rely on our legal attachés and international partners to support our human trafficking investigations as well.

In short, this is a real and present threat not only throughout the United States, but globally, and human trafficking is an international menace.  So in addition to all of our domestic field offices and their partners, our agents are working alongside officers from 55 different countries on our Violent Crimes Against Children international task force to make sure that these dangerous criminals can’t hide outside our borders, which expands the FBI’s reach in addressing this global threat to our children.

And the work that these folks are doing is making a real impact.  Last fiscal year we arrested 786 criminals associated with human trafficking, and in that same time frame, the FBI opened 668 new human trafficking cases.  And so as of this month, we have more than 1,600 human trafficking cases pending, and of course each one of those inevitably ends up with stories much like Secretary Mayorkas told, where you’ve got scores of victims represented by each subject.

And as everybody knows around this table, and as you referenced yourself, Mr. Secretary, of course these statistics aren’t just numbers.  They represent real people.  And so in combating this threat, we’re keenly focused on the victims.  And in Fiscal Year ‘22, our human trafficking investigations led us to locating and recovering 559 child victims.  Upon finding and rescuing these children, our victim specialists began the arduous task of working with them to help rebuild their lives – from food, clothing, and housing to translation services and support throughout legal proceedings, helping to make sure that they’re able to make that journey from victim to survivor.  We also have child and adolescent forensic interviewers who are specially trained – in all the interviewing that we do – to account for that age group’s development, potential trauma, and mental health throughout the course of the process.

So the FBI’s mission, of course, is to protect the American people, but within that, protecting children and the most vulnerable among us is the very reason why people join the FBI.  And we’re inspired, driven, and incredibly proud to do this work.  So I’m honored to add my voice to everyone else’s here to pledge the FBI’s continued commitment to the National Action Plan for – to Combat Human Trafficking with every organization represented here today.  And with our partners, we’re going to continue to push forward these important investigations to develop even better strategies to combat these crimes, focusing not just on dismantling these criminal enterprises that perpetuate these crimes through really comprehensive investigations targeting all of their criminal endeavors, but also, as Under Secretary Nelson referenced, by seizing their ill-gotten proceeds and assets, and, most importantly, making sure that we always keep victims front and center.

So this work wouldn’t be possible without the help of our many partners – federal, state, local, international – and we’re grateful for their support of this effort.  And we’re going to keep at it for as long as it takes and send the message that if you try to prey on our most vulnerable, you forfeit your right to live freely in this country.  So thank you, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Chris, thank you very, very much.  I just, on behalf of the State Department, just want to, in particular, thank you for the incredible international role the FBI plays, something that’s not perhaps as known.  And the other piece I think that’s so important is the investigation/prosecution piece, because one of the challenges that I know colleagues know that we have around the world is particularly with the Trafficking in Persons Report that we do and the criteria that we’ve established is countries will get laws on the books, which is great and important and necessary, but not sufficient if they don’t actually use them.  And particularly encouraging others to do the investigations, to do the prosecutions, that’s of course one of the most powerful ways in actually both stopping and deterring this crime.  So the FBI’s example is a powerful one.  Thank you.

I’d like to go now to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and to Charlotte Burrows.

MS BURROWS:  Thank you so much, Mr. Secretary.  And like others, I will start by congratulating our award recipients.  In particular, the EEOC has really had the benefit of excellent work of the CDM for many years, and so thank you for that.  Truly well-deserved to both of you.

Mr. Secretary, I’d also like to thank you for the – convening this critically important conversation and for your leadership in this organization, this body.  I was fortunate to be in southern California last year to meet – last week, rather, to meet with migrant and farm workers in that area.  And one of the things that was clear from that is that it is so important that we coordinate.  There were so many issues that were raised that were cross-cutting, including those that the EEOC deals with in this area.  We are grateful to be part of this President’s Interagency Task Force and to support the administration’s efforts on this vitally important issue.

When traffickers and employees – employers are using force or fraud or coercion to exploit workers, their actions actually also violate the federal employment laws that we enforce at the EEOC, in particular the laws prohibiting discrimination based on race, national origin, sex, or disability.  And in addition to investigating complaints and filing enforcement actions to combat human trafficking, the EEOC is continuing to conduct outreach to educate the public about this agency’s role in human trafficking issues.  In the last fiscal year alone, our agency has reached 107 different outreach events to – and actually with just about a little over 6,500 attendees.

So the agency is also developing new materials on human trafficking for our Youth@Work training.  Unfortunately, a lot of the individuals that we encounter in our work who are trafficking victims are youth, as Director Wray indicated, and we are doing these trainings for high school students entering their first jobs.  We are providing additional technical assistance in the area of workforce harassment and continue to train our frontline staff to recognize the signs of human trafficking.

Finally, we’re expanding partnerships with federal agencies, and so I’m, again, very pleased to be here with nongovernmental organizations and international partners to ensure that stakeholders understand when trafficking violates employment discrimination laws and how to request agency support for things like T visas and U visas when that is necessary to protect survivors.

So thank you for the opportunity to share EEOC’s ongoing efforts in this important area, and we look forward to our continuing partnership.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Charlotte, thank you very much, and thank you especially for the leadership role that you have been playing and that the Commission has been playing in dealing with this.

To the Department of Labor, Allison Zelman, chief of staff.

MS ZELMAN:  Great, thank you.  On behalf of Secretary Walsh and Deputy Secretary Su, who send their regrets they couldn’t be here, we are very honored to be part of this task force and take this work incredibly seriously.

At the Department of Labor, we focus on enforcing labor protections in the United States and internationally to prevent and address labor exploitation before it becomes labor trafficking.  Earlier today, the Secretary delegated authority to our Occupational Safety and Health Administration to certify for human trafficking visas.  Now there are two enforcement agencies within the Department of Labor that actually have that authority.

Our investigators are increasing referrals of labor trafficking cases for investigation, stepping up engagement with local human trafficking task forces, and providing expertise on labor exploitation and child labor in the Federal Enforcement Work Group to help increase federal forced labor prosecutions.

Our Wage and Hour Division will provide their enforcement staff additional trauma-informed training on human trafficking awareness and referrals and retaliation.  Wage and Hour is working to ensure that all trafficking victims in the United States receive the back wages they are entitled to under the law.  They will assist DOJ by providing them training materials for calculating forfeiture and restitution in forced labor and sex trafficking cases.

Our Employment and Training Administration’s National Monitor Advocate will partner with the National Farm Worker Jobs Program and others to:  one, provide training on processing complaints of suspected trafficking of agricultural workers; and two, improve employment, training, and supportive services for victims and survivors.

On the international level, the Bureau of International Labor Affairs is working to identify forced labor and child labor risks and products that are part of our everyday lives to ensure that we don’t import them.  New research projects on inputs made with child labor or forced labor are tracing those inputs through their supply chains to the final products in agriculture, mining, and other sectors across the globe.  The results will inform the next list of goods produced by child labor or forced labor in our International Child Labor Report.

There is more we can accomplish together to end human trafficking.  We worked with law enforcement agencies in 22 trafficking cases, assisting with referrals and restitution.  We welcome more collaboration across all federal partners and see lots of opportunity to do so.  For example, receiving feedback on U and T visa referrals.  We look forward to continuing to work with all of our interagency partners and other allies in the United States and abroad to combat and end this egregious abuse of workers.

Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Allison, thank you very, very much, and really appreciate as well the hugely vital focus on the forced labor aspect of this.  Very important that we keep that front and center in our sights along with sex trafficking, and greatly appreciate the work that Labor is doing on that.

So before we conclude, I would like last but not least to turn the microphone over to Jen Klein, the director of the White House Gender Policy Council.  Jen.

MS KLEIN:  Thank you, Secretary Blinken.  I’d like to start where you started, by thanking our honored guests – first you, Brenda Myers-Powell, for speaking to us on behalf of the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking.  I think the Council truly reflects the Administration’s commitment to survivor engagement, and I’m really gratified that Congress has made it a permanent part of our anti-trafficking efforts.

Again, I’d also like to thank the award recipients for your amazing work.  As I sit here and listen to the depth and the breadth of this scourge and the work that’s being done to address it, it makes me realize yet again how much foresight the President had in creating the Gender Policy Council, which is both global and domestic and which covers a range of issues, so many we’ve heard from – about today, from gender-based violence – very mindful every time I meet with him that he reinforces his commitment to the Violence Against Women Act and my responsibility to make sure we don’t screw it up – and health and economic security.

As we’ve just heard, human trafficking is a multifaceted problem that requires a whole-of-government approach, really a whole-of-society response.  And that also includes a focus on its disproportionate impact on marginalized populations, including women and girls, LGBTQI+ individuals, people of color, individuals with disabilities, migrants, low-wage workers, and other underserved communities who are more vulnerable to abuse.

Over the past year, we’ve made progress in prevention, including new partnerships between the Department of Health and Human Services, Tribal leaders, and indigenous communities – community organizations to address the intersection of human trafficking and missing and murdered indigenous women.  We’ve pioneered new protection efforts, including the Department of Justice’s new Guidelines for Trauma-Informed Survivor Engagement.  The Departments of Labor, Justice, and State have increased their investigation and prosecution of labor trafficking, including involving cases of domestic workers, temporary workers, and other vulnerable work – groups, excuse me.  And we have deepened our partnerships with community organizations, state and local agencies, private agencies, private industry, and governments around the world.

Just as importantly, we recognize that combating human trafficking requires addressing the underlying conditions of exploitation, including systemic poverty, inequality, and discrimination.  We’ve heard a lot about that.  I will just add a few things that we’re doing at the Gender Policy Council.  We recently released with the partnership of USAID and the State Department the first-ever Global Women’s Economic Security Strategy to enhance women’s economic participation around the world.  Domestically we’re looking to advance women’s access to good jobs and to mitigate the disproportionate risks faced by low-wage and other vulnerable workers, including those in the care sector.  And our efforts really complement the work being done across the White House from increasing protections for migrant workers to improving integration for new Americans.

Over the coming year, the White House will continue to collaborate with our agency partners on implementing the Human Trafficking National Action Plan, including by expanding access to quality and trauma-informed services, safeguarding against human trafficking in our supply chains, and ensuring that the people whose lives are most affected by exploitation have a seat at the table.

Much remains to be done, but of course we remain committed to the work that lies ahead.  I want to end by reiterating my gratitude to everyone in this room for the work you and all of your partners are doing to ensure that all people can live and work with dignity and respect.  And with that, let me turn it back over to you, Secretary Blinken.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Jen, thank you so much.  And to each and every one of you, thank you.  Thank you for being here today.  I’m so gratified by the time that everyone spent, that colleagues from senior levels of the government have all been here today.  And as Jen said, I think the reason that’s so important, the reason this interagency task force is so important, is precisely because this is a cross-cutting issue, cross-cutting within the government and of course beyond the government.  And the fact that we have increasingly all of our agencies and departments working more closely together coordinating, sharing information, sharing best practices, and then using in many cases unique connections that they have with other critical stakeholders in this effort, whether it’s internationally or whether it’s domestically with the private sector, with NGOs, with local law enforcement, and so on down the list, that’s what really makes the difference.

So if we manage to really work together on this, we already see the difference we can make, and I’m convinced we can make an even bigger difference going forward.  So to everyone, thanks for the time today, but thanks especially for the work every single day.  And we look forward to doing more and doing more together in the year ahead.  Thank you.

# # #

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future