The U.S. government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. Federal agencies conducted numerous awareness and training activities for their own personnel, including law enforcement and acquisition professionals, and field office staff. The Department of the Treasury (Treasury) joined the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (PITF) to bring added expertise, including in evaluating the nexus between money laundering and human trafficking. To enhance transparency and stakeholder input, the PITF included the presidentially-appointed survivor advisory council in its annual meeting and reported on agency accomplishments in combating human trafficking. The government continued to implement its strategic action plan on victim services in the United States and publicly released the second status report in December 2016. The government released a national action plan on responsible business conduct that included commitments to combat human trafficking in supply chains.
The government continued public outreach measures on the causes and consequences of human trafficking and continued efforts to increase victim identification among vulnerable populations and sectors and improve prevention efforts. HHS continued to fund an NGO to operate the national human trafficking hotline and in January 2017 launched a training and technical assistance center to enhance the public health response of communities and professionals to human trafficking. In FY 2016, the national hotline received 51,167 calls from across the United States and U.S. territories. In October 2016, the government updated the “Know Your Rights” pamphlet U.S. embassies and consulates provide applicants for temporary work and exchange visitor visas, incorporating public input, including from survivors, and featuring additional resources for workers. In FY 2016, the pamphlet generated 459 calls to the national hotline, compared to 424 calls generated by the pamphlet in FY 2015.
In 2016, DHS continued its nationwide human trafficking awareness Blue Campaign and developed new products, including a toolkit for the hospitality sector. DOJ prepared a toolkit of materials and resources for distribution during outreach events that includes victim identification practices and protocols for assisting possible trafficking victims. HHS launched a new awareness campaign that incorporated stakeholder and survivor input and continued to provide training to health care and social service professionals. The Department of Transportation (DOT) and DHS worked with survivor advocates, law enforcement, and aviation experts to revise their training module for airline personnel. In July 2016, a legislative amendment added an annual training requirement for flight attendants on recognizing and responding to potential victims of trafficking, which led to an increase in the number of airlines partnering with DOT and DHS from four to 16. In FY 2016, the EEOC conducted more than 240 trafficking outreach events, reaching more than 25,000 individuals. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) developed and distributed across the United States a pamphlet on human trafficking and industry vulnerabilities, and it conducted outreach visits to rural communities in three states to increase awareness of trafficking. Treasury continued to analyze and disseminate information received from financial institutions related to human trafficking. The U.S. Agency for International Development funded anti-trafficking activities in 34 countries and continued its mandatory trafficking training for employees, including its acquisition workforce. The Department of Education continued outreach efforts to integrate trafficking information into school curricula and resources. DoD incorporated mandatory human trafficking training for contract and acquisition officers into its standard curricula. DOS continued to provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel; it provided both classroom and web-based training for Diplomatic Security personnel, consular officers, and other employees. To prevent human trafficking, NGOs called for a more comprehensive approach to address the factors and conditions that increase vulnerabilities to human trafficking. Advocates asked for more specific, easily accessible data on prevalence and on victims identified and assisted.
NGOs continued to report abuses, including allegations of human trafficking, of workers in the United States on work-based or other nonimmigrant visas. Advocates urged enhanced protections for workers, including regulatory changes to uncouple work visas from an employer or sponsor, and called for the allocation of more resources to protect workers from unscrupulous recruiters.
Both the H-2A and H-2B programs prohibit directly or indirectly charging foreign workers job placement, recruitment, or other fees—including certain salary deductions—related to employment, and both require disclosure of the terms of employment. Since August 2016, DOL has maintained an online list of H-2B foreign labor recruiters to increase transparency in the recruitment process, help workers verify legitimate H-2B job opportunities in the United States, and better enforce recruitment violations. In January 2017, DHS and DOL approved an agreement to share data on employers participating in nonimmigrant and immigrant visa programs. NGOs continued to report inadequate government oversight and enforcement of the recruitment fee ban and noted that workers were still being charged prohibited fees.
DOS has implemented steps to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of participants in the J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program, which includes the Summer Work Travel (SWT) and the au pair programs. DOS conducted field monitoring of the SWT program in the 2016 summer and winter seasons, visiting 446 SWT exchange visitor sites in 25 states and the District of Columbia. DOS also continued outreach efforts with 25 community support structures in 19 states with significant SWT populations to educate participants on personal safety, among other things. In January 2017, DOS sought public comment on a proposed new rule amending the SWT program requirements, which adds protections for visitors and new responsibilities for sponsors. In March 2017, a Florida man was sentenced to 30 years in prison for sex trafficking in a 2011 case involving the exploitation of two SWT exchange visitors. With respect to the au pair program, DOS continued to monitor the health, safety, and welfare of au pairs. Recent media reports detailed allegations of abuse in a small number of cases under the au pair program involving au pairs working extra hours without additional pay and not receiving the appropriate wage for their placement jurisdiction.
U.S. law exempts U.S. vessels in fleets that fish for highly migratory species from a requirement that at least 75 percent of crew on vessels in U.S. waters be U.S. citizens. As a result, most workers on these fleets, which dock at ports in Hawaii and along the U.S. west coast, are foreign nationals. These workers are not eligible, based on this work, for any U.S. work-based visas to enter the United States, are not covered by U.S. labor law protections, and consistent with industry practice are subject to a requirement whereby vessel captains hold the crew’s identity documents. DHS monitored these workers’ conditions to mitigate potential risks of exploitation.
In February 2017, a federal judge certified a class of immigration detainees who allege they were forced to work in violation of the TVPA during their detention in a privately owned and operated prison company contracted by DHS. The class certification has been appealed. DHS is not party to the lawsuit.
In 2016, DOS continued to administer its In-Person Registration Program for domestic workers on A-3 and G-5 visas employed by foreign mission and international organization personnel, respectively, in the Washington, DC area and began annual renewal appointments. DOS hosted a briefing for senior foreign embassy and international organization officials to reiterate program requirements, introduce a suggested employment contract template, and emphasize foreign mission responsibility for the welfare of these workers. DOS also held a consultation with NGOs on issues related to domestic workers. Despite these efforts, an OSCE report called for expansion of the In-Person Registration Program to include all A-3 and G-5 visa holders in the United States and raised concerns that some foreign mission personnel evade current protection measures for foreign domestic workers. NGO reports called for increased efforts to prosecute domestic servitude cases involving diplomats when possible, the inclusion of all domestic workers in federal labor and employment law protections, and strengthened protections under state laws.
Civil enforcement of federal laws continued to be a significant component of the government’s anti-trafficking efforts. DOL investigated complaints and conducted targeted civil labor investigations involving workers in industries and sectors known to be vulnerable to labor trafficking. In FY 2016, DOL increased enforcement activities in industries including agriculture, landscaping, seafood, reforestation, and hospitality. However, survivor advocates noted the high number of cases in hospitality, agriculture, and construction and recommended more investigations of these industries. During the reporting period, EEOC, which enforces federal employment discrimination statutes, continued to pursue cases on behalf of trafficked workers and ensure compensation for victims of trafficking, but did not file any new cases. Federal law also allows a person subjected to trafficking to independently file a civil cause of action, and there were cases in which individuals took this action during the reporting period.
The government continued its efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex and forced labor in the reporting period. DoD investigated at least seven cases of service members allegedly violating DoD’s prohibition on procuring commercial sex, compared to at least 38 investigations the previous year. DOJ continued to prosecute individuals who pay or attempt to pay for commercial sex involving children. For example, in 2016, one defendant received a sentence of 293 months in prison for engaging in a commercial sex act with a 12-year-old child. NGOs urged increased efforts to address the demand for commercial sex, including efforts to prosecute those who solicit sex from trafficking victims.
DOJ and DHS continued to proactively investigate allegations of child sex tourism offenses perpetrated overseas by U.S. citizens and partnered with foreign law enforcement counterparts to share information regarding international travel of registered child sex offenders. Ten defendants were convicted of federal child sex tourism charges under the federal statute, 18 U.S.C. § 2423(c), in FY 2016, an increase from three in the previous reporting period. Offenders who abuse children abroad could be prosecuted under other statutes, and prosecutions based on other statutes are not reflected in this statistic.
DOJ and other federal law enforcement agencies continued to investigate allegations of debt bondage and excessive recruitment fees required of third-country nationals working on certain U.S. government contracts abroad, but no federal criminal prosecutions of employers or labor contractors resulted from these investigations in FY 2016. There were no reports of civil actions, debarment, or other sanctions against noncompliant employers or labor contractors from U.S. programs.
The government sought public comment on a proposed definition of “recruitment fees” in the context of the Federal Acquisition Regulation, “Ending Trafficking in Persons,” which strengthens protections against trafficking in federal contracts, and on guidance for federal contractors on anti-trafficking risk management best practices and mitigation considerations.
DHS enforces a law that prohibits the importation of goods made by prohibited forms of labor, including forced labor. Within the reporting period, the government identified two locations and detained merchandise suspected of violating the statute but did not detain any goods on grounds it was produced by forced labor.
In FY 2016, DOI partnered with the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) to provide a human trafficking training session at each of the NIGC’s regional conferences. DOI worked with DHS to host meetings with tribal leaders to address crime and exploitation along U.S. borders and continued to provide human trafficking training to tribal first responders, including law enforcement and victim services personnel. For the first time, DOJ granted three awards dedicated to increasing NGO capacity to provide services for American Indian and Alaska Native victims of sex trafficking who reside in urban areas. DOJ developed a specialized training program on human trafficking in Indian Country and directed each United States Attorney’s Office with tribal communities to develop guidelines with federal and tribal partners to address sexual violence and to develop strategic plans to combat trafficking. HHS and USDA launched a trafficking outreach initiative for rural and tribal communities and held joint community listening sessions with tribal leaders. HHS provided resources, training, and technical assistance to American Indian and Alaska Native communities to strengthen community-led responses to human trafficking aimed at increasing awareness and addressing the service needs of American Indian trafficking victims. Challenges include a criminal justice infrastructure inadequate to meet the needs of Indian Country, limited victim services, and cultural barriers to recognizing vulnerabilities.