The U.S. government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. Federal agencies conducted numerous educational and training activities for their own personnel, including law enforcement and acquisition professionals, and field office staff. The President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons continued federal anti-trafficking efforts and its work with the presidentially appointed survivor advisory council. The government continued to implement its strategic action plan on victim services in the United States and publicly released the third status report for FY 2016 in August 2017.
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 added text and online chat capabilities to improve accessibility. In FY 2017, the hotline received 62,835 calls from across the United States and U.S. territories, identified 8,759 human trafficking cases, and provided resources and referrals to 10,615 victims. The hotline also received information on 4,863 potential traffickers and 1,698 businesses facilitating human trafficking. More than 2,000 individuals who identified as victims of trafficking directly called the hotline seeking help. U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide continued to provide applicants for temporary work and exchange visitor visas a “Know Your Rights” pamphlet and, in key countries, continued to play a related video in consular waiting rooms. In FY 2017, the pamphlet generated 714 calls to the national hotline compared to 459 calls generated by the pamphlet in FY 2016.
In 2017, DHS continued its nationwide human trafficking awareness Blue Campaign and, with input from trafficking survivors and other partners, developed new products, including a new public service announcement focused on labor trafficking. DHS held more than 1,100 training and engagement events with NGOs and law enforcement. HHS launched new educational materials that incorporated stakeholder and survivor input and created 59 fact sheets that provide an overview of anti-trafficking activities and available resources in states and territories. DOL launched a mandatory new course to educate all DOL employees on recognizing indicators of human trafficking. DOL also trained corresponding state authorities to identify and refer cases of human trafficking, and to respond to sexual harassment and human trafficking issues routinely faced by farmworkers. The Department of Transportation (DOT) and DHS continued to train airline personnel on recognizing and responding to indicators of human trafficking in addition to fostering new partnerships with airlines and aviation industry associations, and DOT continued to grow its group of public and private sector transportation stakeholders to maximize the transportation industry’s collective impact on combating human trafficking. In FY 2017, EEOC, in partnership with community-based organizations, conducted 199 trafficking outreach events, reaching more than 10,600 individuals, and conducted nine training sessions for 357 staff and representatives of state and local fair employment practice agencies on identifying and developing trafficking-related charges of discrimination. EEOC also continued its efforts to increase public awareness about human trafficking with its human trafficking resource guide. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) offered several training modules to its personnel and local law enforcement officers on how to identify and combat human trafficking. The Department of Education (ED) partnered with HHS and survivor experts to hold a briefing for school administrators, parents, and the public to promote awareness of child trafficking in schools. DOS continued to provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel, and launched a new course on protection from sexual exploitation and abuse that includes information on sex trafficking. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funded 33 anti-trafficking projects worldwide and continued its mandatory online training for all employees on its code of conduct, which prohibits all employees from engaging in human trafficking or any behaviors that may facilitate trafficking, such as commercial sex.
NGOs continued to call for a more comprehensive approach to address the factors and conditions that increase vulnerabilities to human trafficking, and survivor advocates called for federal educational materials to include more examples of all forms of human trafficking. Advocates called for efforts to estimate the prevalence of human trafficking in the United States.
NGOs continued to allege human trafficking of workers in the United States on work-based or other nonimmigrant visas. Advocates continued to call for enhanced protections for workers in temporary worker visa programs, including regulatory changes to uncouple work visas from an employer or sponsor. They also called for regulatory changes that would protect individuals in certain temporary worker programs to the same extent as other workers. In addition, NGOs called for the allocation of more resources to protect workers from unscrupulous recruiters, and one NGO called for increased transparency and accountability for temporary worker programs and for agencies to develop a database to share visa and job-related information with workers in real time.
Under the H-2A and H-2B programs, employers are barred from seeking or receiving payments from workers for any activities related to obtaining labor certification or employment, including job placement and recruitment fees, and salary and wage deductions, and both programs require that the terms of employment be disclosed. DOL continued to maintain 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; this list does not certify or indicate recruiters’ compliance with the recruitment fee ban. DOJ and DOS approved a formal mechanism to share information on employers that may be abusing employment-based immigrant and nonimmigrant visa programs to enhance oversight and enforcement of these programs.
NGOs continued to report that workers were still being charged prohibited fees and called for increased government enforcement of the recruitment fee ban.
In FY 2017, DOL issued 9,797 H-2A and 6,599 H-2B temporary labor certifications. DOL does not accept temporary labor certification applications for processing if the employer discloses that it charges a prohibited fee to the worker. DHS does not delineate reasons for H-2A and H-2B denials, thus data related to the number of denials based upon prohibited fee practices is unavailable. DOL and DHS continued to share data related to immigrant and nonimmigrant labor certifications and petitions.
DOS continued its oversight of the J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program, which includes the Summer Work Travel (SWT), intern, and au pair programs. DOS continued to monitor program participants to help safeguard their health, safety, and welfare and to identify and investigate program fraud and abuse. DOS conducted field monitoring of the SWT program in the 2017 summer and winter seasons, visiting 965 SWT exchange visitor sites in 24 states and the District of Columbia. DOS also continued community outreach efforts in 19 states with significant SWT populations. DOS continued to liaise with law enforcement on criminal investigations relating to the J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program. In July 2017, a Nevada man was sentenced to 26 months in prison and three years’ supervised release, along with two co-defendants sentenced to five years of probation, for exploiting more than 200 intern and trainee exchange visitors; the three were ordered to pay more than $1.6 million in restitution. The number of complaints and incidents reported to DOS involving the SWT program declined during the reporting period.
Reports continued to allege abuse under the au pair program involving au pairs working extra hours without additional pay and not receiving the appropriate wage for their placement jurisdiction.
In February 2018, a federal appeals court in Colorado ruled a certified class of immigration detainees who alleged they were forced to work in violation of the TVPA during their detention in a privately owned and operated prison company contracted by DHS could proceed. DHS is not party to the lawsuit. During the reporting period, similar lawsuits were filed against privately owned and operated prison companies contracted by DHS in California.
In 2017, DOS continued to administer its domestic worker In-Person Registration Program for A-3 and G-5 visa holders employed by foreign mission and international organization personnel, respectively, in the Washington, DC, area.
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 2017, DOL continued enforcement activities in industries including agriculture, landscaping, hotels, seafood, and reforestation.
During the reporting period, EEOC, which enforces federal employment discrimination statutes, continued to pursue cases on behalf of 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 filed a civil cause of action during the reporting period.
In FY 2017, EEOC received 10 new charges of discrimination linked to human trafficking. It also resolved nine similar pending charges and recovered $272,500 in monetary benefits for charging parties through the administrative process. As of September 30, 2017, EEOC had 27 pending charges linked to human trafficking. During the reporting period, EEOC implemented its new guidance on national origin discrimination that provides EEOC’s interpretation of national origin based employment discrimination law, including human trafficking.
The government continued its efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex and forced labor in the reporting period. DoD investigated 10 cases of service members allegedly violating DoD’s prohibition on procuring commercial sex, compared to at least seven investigations the previous year. DOJ continued to prosecute individuals who pay or attempt to pay for commercial sex involving children. For example, in 2017, one such defendant received a sentence of 220 months in prison for child sex trafficking.
NGOs continued to call for 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. Nine defendants were convicted of federal child sex tourism charges in FY 2017 compared to 10 in the previous reporting period. Offenders who abuse children abroad may have been prosecuted under other statutes, and prosecutions based on other statutes are not reflected in this statistic. DOJ, along with DHS, DOS, and DoD, continued to implement a strategy to track registered sex offenders traveling internationally.
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 2017. DoD took action against noncompliant employers or labor contractors from U.S. programs resulting in 22 suspensions, six debarments, one job termination, and one compliance agreement.
During the reporting period, the government did not finalize a clarification in the form of a definition of “recruitment fees” in the context of the Federal Acquisition Regulation, “Ending Trafficking in Persons,” which strengthens protections against trafficking in federal contracts; or guidance for federal contractors in 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. DHS issued one Withhold Release Order from April 1, 2017, to March 31, 2018, for a shipment of goods on grounds it was produced by forced labor. The government also enacted a new law during the reporting period that extends this prohibition to any goods produced by North Korean workers. DOL released a mobile and web application that provides companies and industry groups practical guidance on how to identify risks of forced labor in their supply chains and mitigate or remediate abuses.
Survivor advocates reported the need for increased data on human trafficking within American Indian and Alaska Native communities and called for increased resources focused on tribal communities.
In September 2017, the government established an ad hoc working group to increase the effectiveness and coordination of its anti-trafficking efforts focused on American Indian and Alaska Native communities. DOI led an interagency working group to develop a set of resource maps that identify federal victim assistance personnel working in Indian Country for distribution to federal law enforcement and victim service personnel. DOI also delivered awareness training to more than 1,300 attendees, including new disciplines and organizations, such as the National Indian Gaming Commission, medical services, and states developing human trafficking task forces. DHS filmed a new trafficking training video for American Indian communities developed with survivor input, and entered into a formal partnership with a new human trafficking working group established by the mayor of Anchorage, Alaska, to collaborate on local efforts and provide training and resources. DOJ grantees organized the first tribal-specific national conference on sex trafficking, which brought together tribes; federal, state, and local agencies; and advocates, including NGOs and survivor advocates. DOJ provided support to improve law enforcement responses to missing, endangered, and abducted children, including cases of child sex trafficking in American Indian and Alaska Native communities. HHS released a toolkit developed with survivor input to educate American Indian youth, and produced webinars specific to American Indian populations to increase public awareness, identify victims, connect victims to services, and prevent human trafficking.
The Government Accountability Office reported that challenges include a criminal justice infrastructure inadequate to meet the needs of Indian Country, limited victim services, including culturally relevant services, and barriers to proactively identifying victims.