The U.S. government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. Federal agencies conducted numerous educational and training activities for their own personnel, state, local, and tribal officials, and other stakeholders. The President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons included the presidentially-appointed survivor advisory council in its meeting and reported publicly on agency accomplishments and future efforts.
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 to seek and incorporate survivor input into policies and programs. HHS awarded $1.75 million to an NGO to operate the national human trafficking hotline. In FY 2018, the hotline received 116,940 calls, texts, chats, online tips, and emails, identified 10,658 potential human trafficking cases, and provided resources and referrals to 9,365 potential victims. The hotline also received information on more than 5,600 potential traffickers and more than 42 types of businesses facilitating human trafficking. Of the potential human trafficking cases identified, the hotline reported 3,434 cases to law enforcement and received information that at least 1,009 investigations were opened as a result. More than 6,000 individuals identified themselves through calls, texts, or web chats as potential victims of trafficking seeking help, with texting being the most common method of communication. HHS awarded $2 million in FY 2018 for the identification and referral of domestic and foreign national victims of human trafficking for services in 10 communities, identifying 558 victims of trafficking. The U.S. government operated other tip lines that received calls or messages related to suspected human trafficking cases. U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide continued to provide the “Know Your Rights” pamphlet to applicants for temporary work and exchange visitor visas in an effort to help visa applicants better understand their rights and raise awareness of human trafficking. DOS updated the related “Know Your Rights” video with input from survivors so that it would more effectively reach its target audience. In FY 2018, the pamphlet generated 294 calls to the national hotline, a significant decline from 714 calls generated in FY 2017.
In 2018, DHS held more than 1,300 training and engagement events with NGOs and law enforcement. DHS continued its nationwide human trafficking awareness Blue Campaign and incorporated input from trafficking survivors and other partners to develop new educational awareness products, including toolkits for the transportation sector and faith-based communities. Under the law, HHS established a national advisory committee composed of trafficking survivors and other subject matter experts focused on child sex trafficking in the United States. In January 2019, the committee submitted preliminary recommendations to DOJ and HHS for improving federal and state responses to child sex trafficking. In FY 2018, HHS published new survivor-informed public awareness materials to reach faith and community-based partners and health professionals. In FY 2018, HHS supported 61 training and technical assistance activities, compared to 32 in FY 2017, reaching 8,506 training participants. These activities included online training designed to improve health care providers’ awareness of and response to human trafficking. For the second year, HHS continued its leadership academy composed of survivors and anti-trafficking professionals that developed recommendations for improving services. DOL worked with an NGO to train state authorities to identify and refer cases of labor trafficking in agriculture. The Department of Transportation (DOT) and DHS continued to train airline personnel and in FY 2018 had 20 active partnerships with airlines and aviation industry organizations. Under the law, DOT established a new advisory committee on human trafficking composed of representatives from NGOs, transportation sectors, and labor associations that will develop recommendations for DOT and best practices for the state and local departments of transportation, private industry, NGOs, transportation authorities, and other transportation stakeholders. In FY 2018, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) participated in 188 outreach events that addressed human trafficking, reaching more than 9,370 individuals, including state and local government partners, and continued efforts to increase public awareness about human trafficking with its human trafficking resource guide. The EEOC also conducted training on identifying and developing trafficking-related charges of discrimination. DOS launched a consultant network of survivors and other subject matter experts to inform its anti-trafficking policies and programs. DOS also added a human trafficking module to its orientation program for U.S. chiefs of mission and updated its human trafficking course for consular staff. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) created a new strategy for promoting and prioritizing survivor empowerment through its programs. Congress made available more than $95 million in FY 2018 foreign assistance resources to DOS and USAID to support anti-trafficking initiatives in more than 45 countries.
NGOs continued to call for a more comprehensive approach to address the factors and conditions that increase vulnerabilities, including by promoting fair wages and access to social services. Advocates also called for additional research into the prevalence and characteristics of human trafficking in the United States, especially for labor trafficking and other trafficking cases involving men, boys, and LGBTI individuals, to improve targeted prevention efforts.
DOL, DHS, and DOS screen and approve employers and workers for temporary worker programs to ensure compliance with program requirements, including worker protections. To reduce workers’ vulnerability to exploitation, including human trafficking, the United States bars employers participating in these programs or their agents 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 requires that the terms of employment be disclosed. DOL seeks to ensure employer compliance through audits and investigations and does not accept temporary labor certification applications if the employer discloses it charges a prohibited fee to the worker.
NGOs reported weak oversight of employment-based and other nonimmigrant visa programs, noting human trafficking cases involving workers in the United States on these programs. They also called for more training of government agencies and law enforcement to distinguish between labor violations and labor trafficking. Advocates continued to call for enhanced protections for workers in temporary worker programs, including regulatory changes to uncouple employment visas from an employer or sponsor and to protect individuals in certain temporary worker programs to the same extent as other workers. In addition, NGOs called for increased transparency and accountability for temporary worker programs and for agencies to develop a more accessible system to share visa and job-related information with workers in real time, including the names of employer petitioners.
For the H-2A program, DOL maintains an online list of certified and debarred U.S.-based farm labor contractors but does not maintain a list of foreign farm labor recruiters. For the H-2B program, DOL maintains and updates quarterly an online list of foreign labor recruiters; this list does not certify or indicate recruiters’ compliance with the recruitment fee ban.
In FY 2018, DOL issued 11,319 H-2A and 7,420 H-2B temporary labor certifications compared to 9,797 and 6,599 in FY 2017, respectively, and debarred 35 employers for substantially violating material terms or conditions of such temporary labor certifications. DHS, which adjudicates employer petitions for such workers, 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.
NGOs continued to report that formal and informal recruiters and agents charged workers prohibited fees and noted weak government enforcement of the recruitment fee ban. One NGO stated the H-2B list was not published frequently enough or in a format that allowed workers to verify recruiters and reported this outdated or incomplete information aided unscrupulous recruiters with creating more plausible, but false, offers. An NGO noted an H-2A farm labor contractor who pled guilty to visa fraud was not debarred and continued to participate in the program.
Another NGO reported that lack of oversight, coupled with the government’s practice of denying visas to applicants who reported paying recruitment fees, disincentivized applicants from reporting violations to authorities. NGOs called for the formalization of the labor recruitment process, such as through the creation of registration requirements and a government-run public registry of authorized labor recruiters.
DOS continued its oversight of the Exchange Visitor Program (EVP or J-1 Visa program), which includes the Summer Work Travel (SWT), Camp Counselor, Intern, and Au Pair programs. DOS continued to monitor exchange visitors to help safeguard their health, safety, and welfare and to identify and investigate program fraud and abuse. DOS conducted outreach throughout 2018 to raise program sponsors’ awareness of their administrative oversight and reporting obligations to DOS with respect to the health, safety, and welfare of exchange visitors. DOS requires EVP sponsors to provide all exchange visitors with the “Know Your Rights” pamphlet during orientation sessions. DOS conducted field monitoring across all EVP categories in 2018, visiting 1,103 exchange visitors in 311 sites in 21 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. DOS also continued community outreach efforts in 22 states with significant SWT populations, which included outreach with local host organizations and exchange visitors to raise awareness about human trafficking. DOS continued to liaise with law enforcement on criminal investigations relating to the EVP. In February 2019, a federal court allowed to proceed a certified class of workers in the SWT, Intern, and Trainee programs who alleged they were forced to work in violation of the TVPA; DOS previously removed the party named in the lawsuit as a designated sponsor of the SWT, Intern, and Trainee programs. DOS is not party to the lawsuit.
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. An NGO report released during the reporting period found that, between 2014 and 2017, national human trafficking hotline data included allegations involving 25 au pairs of physical and verbal abuse, and withholding of identity and immigration documents. NGOs reported the need for additional steps to reduce the risks of exploitation in the SWT program, noting concerns with exorbitant program fees and exploitative work conditions. NGOs called for further reforms of the Au Pair and SWT programs, such as requiring program participants to receive contracts detailing the scope and conditions of work.
During the reporting period, lawsuits in Colorado, Georgia, Texas, Washington, Maryland, and California remained pending against privately owned and operated detention facilities contracted by DHS. These lawsuits allege that the contractors forced immigration detainees to work in violation of the TVPA during their federal immigration detention. DHS is not party to the lawsuits, nor are any of its component agencies.
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, and announced the expansion of the program to two new cities and selected the New York metropolitan region as one of them. On January 8, 2019, the government amended the TVPA to require DOS to suspend the A-3 or G-5 visa privileges of any foreign mission or international organization in certain circumstances, including in cases where there is an unpaid default or final civil judgment related to human trafficking against the employer assigned to the embassy.
NGOs called for an expansion of the In-Person Registration Program to additional cities and for DOS to suspend domestic worker visa privileges of any foreign mission or international organization that has not adequately addressed allegations of abuse of any domestic worker, as required by the TVPA.
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 2018, DOL continued enforcement activities in industries including agriculture, landscaping, hotels, seafood, and reforestation.
During the reporting period, the EEOC, which enforces federal employment discrimination statutes, continued to investigate charges on behalf of and seek compensation for victims of trafficking. In FY 2018, the EEOC received eight new charges of discrimination linked to human trafficking. It also resolved 35 similar pending charges and recovered more than $244,000 in monetary benefits for charging parties through the administrative process. As of September 20, 2018, the EEOC had 10 pending charges linked to human trafficking. While the EEOC filed no new employment discrimination lawsuits linked to human trafficking in FY 2018, it continued to litigate a previously filed case.
Federal law also allows a trafficking victim to independently file a civil cause of action, and during the reporting period individuals filed such cases. The number of civil cases increased during the reporting period, with most brought by foreign national plaintiffs alleging forced labor.
The government continued its efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex and forced labor in the reporting period. DoD, in partnership with local law enforcement, investigated 117 cases in FY 2018 of service members allegedly violating DoD’s prohibition on procuring commercial sex, a significant increase from 10 investigations the previous year. DOJ continued to prosecute individuals for sex trafficking who pay or attempt to pay for commercial sex involving children.
NGOs called for increased efforts to address the demand for all forms of human trafficking.
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. Three defendants were convicted of federal child sex tourism charges in FY 2018 compared to nine 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 and notify destination countries.
DOJ and other federal law enforcement agencies did not receive allegations of forced labor or recruitment fees required of third-country nationals working on certain U.S. government contracts abroad, and there were not any federal criminal prosecutions of employers or labor contractors for such violations in connection with U.S. government contracts abroad in FY 2018.
During the reporting period, federal law was amended to prohibit the charging of any recruitment fees on federal contracts by federal contractors and grantees, or by any entity in their supply chains, and the government finalized a definition of “recruitment fees” in the Federal Acquisition Regulation in order to strengthen protections against trafficking in federal contracts. The government did not publish finalized guidance for federal contractors on anti-trafficking risk management best practices and mitigation considerations during the reporting period. DoD took action against noncompliant employers or labor contractors from U.S. programs resulting in nine non-compliance requests, four cure notices, one show cause letter, one contractor personnel termination, six contractor employee debarments and one subcontractor debarment, and one contract termination. DHS had zero contract suspensions or debarments related to human trafficking in FY 2018. The government, along with the governments of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, launched a set of principles for governments to use as a framework for preventing and addressing forced labor in public and private sector supply chains.
DHS enforced the law that prohibits the importation of goods, mined, produced, or manufactured, wholly or in part, under forced labor conditions, including forced child labor. DHS issued two Withhold Release Orders from April 1, 2018, to March 31, 2019, for shipments of goods on grounds they were produced by forced labor. The government continued to enforce a law that extends this prohibition to any imports produced by North Korean nationals. In October 2018, pursuant to Congressional directive, DOJ launched an interagency task force to address legal and jurisdictional issues related to human trafficking in fishing in international waters. The government signed but the U.S. Congress has not yet ratified a trade agreement that requires the parties to prohibit the importation of goods produced by forced labor. DOL released French and Spanish language versions of its mobile application that provides companies and industry groups with practical guidance on how to identify risks of forced labor in their supply chains and mitigate or remediate abuses.
In FY 2018, DOI delivered awareness training to 335 officers, criminal investigators, and gaming employees and conducted 18 trainings for 178 attendees, including DOI law enforcement, tribal and state victim and social service providers, tribal council members, and tribal community members. DHS sought input from survivors to produce a new educational poster series and video to raise awareness among American Indian and Alaska Native communities. DHS also produced a webinar for law enforcement on how to better recognize and respond to American Indian and Alaska Native victims of human trafficking. In FY 2018, for the first time, Congress set aside $133 million to support tribes and strengthen services for victims of crime, including human trafficking. DOJ and DOI partnered to expand access to DOJ’s national crime information databases to more tribal governments. Incorporating feedback from tribes, DOJ re-launched a program to create four new positions focused on facilitating collaboration between tribal and federal judicial authorities on criminal cases, including sex trafficking. HHS produced webinars and conducted an in-person pilot of its training module adapted to focus specifically on American Indian and Alaska Native populations to increase public awareness, identify victims, connect victims to services, and prevent human trafficking. The federal interagency ad hoc working group, which focused on increasing the effectiveness and coordination of the government’s anti-trafficking efforts for American Indian and Alaska Native communities, released a resource guide on U.S. government entities combating human trafficking in such communities.