The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The government continued to implement a comprehensive three-year NAP to combat human trafficking. The President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons continued to report on agency accomplishments and future efforts and again invited a member of the presidentially appointed survivor advisory council to join its meeting to provide survivor perspectives and expertise. In FY 2022, Congress made available $106.4 million in foreign assistance resources to State and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to support international anti-trafficking initiatives in countries in every region of the world.
HHS continued to fund an NGO to operate the national human trafficking hotline. In FY 2022, the hotline received more than 55,000 signals, including calls, texts, chats, online tips, and emails that were substantive in nature (i.e., excluding hang-ups, wrong numbers, missed signals, and signals in which the hotline could not determine the signaler’s reason for calling); identified 10,013 potential human trafficking cases involving 16,775 potential victims; and provided 10,059 referrals for services and reported 2,153 cases to law enforcement. More than 10,000 signals came from individuals who identified themselves as potential victims of trafficking seeking help. The government operated other tip lines that received calls or messages related to suspected human trafficking cases.
The government continued public outreach measures on the causes and consequences of human trafficking and continued to seek and incorporate survivors’ expertise into policies and programs. Agencies provided funding, materials, and trainings related to human trafficking – including on trauma-informed and victim-centered approaches – to federal grantees, school communities, public health providers, child welfare system staff, public and private sector transportation stakeholders, private sector industry professionals, and federal government acquisitions personnel, among others.
Advocates urged the government to evaluate the effectiveness of anti-trafficking outreach efforts and enhance awareness campaigns to better educate people of their rights, including when engaging with law enforcement. Advocates called on the government to evaluate its human trafficking trainings and educational materials to make sure they are survivor-informed, tailored to the industry of those being trained, and designed to increase awareness among law enforcement and social service providers so they are better equipped to accurately identify and assist trafficking victims without causing them harm. Advocates noted the lack of prevalence data remained a barrier to effective anti-trafficking prevention efforts and that the government did not publish a report on prevalence in the United States as required by law; they called for the government to fund and implement local and national prevalence studies, in collaboration with anti-trafficking NGOs and survivors, to increase understanding of the nature and scope of human trafficking and better target anti-trafficking prevention efforts.
Advocates continued to call for the government to prioritize a more comprehensive and proactive approach to address the factors and conditions – including those created by government policies or structures like the criminal justice system, immigration system, housing, and healthcare – that increase vulnerabilities to human trafficking. Advocates again called for the government to further examine racism, discrimination, and poverty as root causes. Many workers in domestic work and agricultural sectors remained specifically excluded from certain worker protections under federal law. These exclusions, combined with the heightened isolation, economic uncertainty, and health risks due to ongoing adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, increased their risk of human trafficking.
DOL, DHS, and State screen and approve employers and workers for temporary foreign 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 and/or their agents from seeking or receiving payments from workers for any activities related to obtaining labor certification or employment. In addition, the government can use the criminal statute that prohibits the use of fraud to recruit, solicit, or hire workers abroad to come to the United States to work to hold employers and their agents criminally responsible for abusive employment practices commonly associated with forced labor.
In FY 2022, DOL conducted 16 and 185 audits of temporary labor certifications for H-2A and H-2B petitions, respectively. DOL had not concluded all FY 2022 H-2B audits by the end of the reporting period, but 30 percent of the concluded audits resulted in an action against the employer, such as a warning, supervised recruitment, or program debarment. Of the 16 H-2A audits conducted in FY 2022, 10 resulted in warnings being issued. DOJ initiated four prosecutions for fraud in foreign labor contracting in FY 2022. For the second year in a row, State extended its interview waiver authorization for certain first-time H-2 visa applicants, which again reduced the government’s ability to verbally provide applicants with information about their rights and to detect potential cases of fraud that increase applicants’ vulnerability to human trafficking. The government continued to expand access to legal migration pathways, including the H-2 visa program, particularly in North and Central America and the Caribbean. USAID continued to support the governments in northern Central America to increase their ability to recruit potential H-2 workers, connect with U.S. businesses, and facilitate the completion and submission of H-2 visa applications. The government issued H-2 visas to 19,053 northern Central American applicants in FY 2022, compared to 9,797 H-2 visas the year before. Applications for 6,298 of those visa holders were facilitated through USAID technical assistance to the northern Central American governments, part of USAID’s efforts to help ensure ethical and transparent recruitment of temporary foreign workers – up from 1,776 the previous year. The remainder of the applications were submitted by private recruiters. The government signed an agreement with the government of Mexico to increase coordination on labor mobility and the protection of participants in temporary foreign worker programs and launched a task force focused on H-2B worker protections to address issues within the H-2B program, including threats to program integrity and H-2B workers’ fundamental vulnerabilities. The government issued guidance on fair recruitment practices for temporary migrant workers aimed at increasing transparency and regulation of H-2 worker recruitment programs and protecting workers’ rights. The government announced a $65 million Department of Agriculture pilot grant program to address labor shortages, reduce irregular migration through the expansion of legal pathways, and improve working conditions for U.S. and H-2A workers, including preventing H-2A workers from being subjected to unfair recruitment practices, among other priorities.
Oversight of temporary worker and other nonimmigrant visa programs remained weak, and structural conditions embedded in some of these programs continued to enable human traffickers – employers, labor contractors, or agents – to maintain control of workers. Advocates again stated the administration’s expansion of the H-2 visa program without having first comprehensively addressed insufficient oversight and the longstanding structural weaknesses of it placed workers at greater risk to human trafficking. An NGO report found that between 2018 and 2020, the national human trafficking hotline identified 3,694 potential victims of labor trafficking in the United States on an H-2 worker visa. Another NGO report that analyzed 225,227 DOL investigations in seven major H-2B industries found more than 80 percent of those investigations uncovered labor violations such as wage theft. Advocates continued to call for legal and regulatory changes to uncouple temporary employment visas from an employer or sponsor. NGOs again recommended the government develop a more comprehensive public database with real-time information in multiple languages to enable workers to verify the existence of a job, find and apply for jobs directly, and access information about the job and their rights. NGOs stated DOL’s screening process of potential H-2 employers was inadequate and called for DOL to implement a more thorough evaluation of all potential employers to uncover any prior violations of labor, civil rights, or anti-discrimination laws and for DOL to debar employers with a record of such violations from hiring through the H-2 program. One NGO shared it received reports from H-2B workers that they did not receive the “Know Your Rights” pamphlet and recruiters received workers’ passports from the U.S. government and removed the pamphlet before workers could read it. NGOs called on State to reduce its use of interview waivers for nonimmigrant visa applicants and urged the government to partner with nonprofits to distribute the “Know Your Rights” pamphlet and other materials to internationally-recruited workers before their arrival in the United States. Advocates called for the government to protect workers who report abuse by employers from retaliation or harm, including the loss of a job for the season.
Formal and informal recruiters, labor contractors, and agents continued to charge workers prohibited fees, and the government’s enforcement of the ban on worker-paid recruitment fees and other prohibited practices meant to prevent workers from experiencing situations of heightened risk to human trafficking remained weak. The government reported structural barriers to enforcement throughout the recruitment chain, including the fact that international recruiters are not within the jurisdiction of U.S. law. NGOs urged the government to impose a legal standard of strict liability for H-2 employers for all illegal fees and costs charged to their workers throughout their recruitment chain. NGOs again called for the government to increase transparency of the recruitment process, prioritize holding accountable employers and farm labor contractors, as well as their agents who have exploited workers and violated visa program regulations, and pass federal legislation to regulate foreign labor recruitment, including through the creation of a public registry of certified labor recruiters.
State continued its oversight of educational and cultural exchange programs under the Exchange Visitor Program (EVP, commonly referred to as the “J-1 visa”), some of which have a work component, and monitored exchange visitors to help safeguard their health, safety, and welfare and to identify and investigate program fraud and abuse. State conducted outreach to raise program sponsors’ awareness of their administrative oversight and reporting obligations to State and began disseminating a pamphlet to educate all newly arriving exchange visitors of their rights. In 2022, State increased monitoring and engagement with both sponsors and exchange visitors, including surveying nearly 45,000 exchange visitors to monitor their health, safety, and welfare. It continued to liaise and collaborate with law enforcement on criminal investigations relating to the EVP and continued to sanction sponsors that violated EVP regulations throughout the reporting period, none of which were for trafficking or trafficking-related crimes in 2022.
An NGO report found that between 2018 and 2020, the national human trafficking hotline identified 184 potential victims of labor trafficking in the EVP. Based on this report, NGOs continued to report the need for additional steps to reduce the risks of exploitation in some EVP categories, noting concerns with fraudulent recruitment practices, contract violations, threats of deportation, and inadequate housing conditions.
State and the U.S. Mission to the UN continued to implement their respective domestic worker in-person registration programs for A-3 and G-5 visa holders employed by foreign mission and international organization personnel in the United States. With COVID-19 restrictions lifted, the programs returned to in-person operations and State began expanding its coverage to require in-person interviews of domestic workers across the United States. In October 2022, DOJ indicted a Kuwaiti diplomat posted to the Permanent Mission of the State of Kuwait to the UN in New York and his wife for forced labor and related crimes involving three domestic workers. In March 2023, State suspended for one year the A-3 and G-5 visa sponsorship privileges afforded to Morocco mission members because the government declined to waive diplomatic immunity for U.S. criminal proceedings related to human trafficking and serious mistreatment of domestic workers and has not initiated its own prosecution.
An NGO urged State to better enforce protections of A-3 and G-5 visa holders and to end impunity of traffickers, including by suspending A-3 and G-5 visa sponsorship privileges for countries whose diplomats committed human trafficking crimes and where restitution to victims remained unpaid.
Lawsuits filed by current and former noncitizens in civil immigration detention in Colorado, Georgia, Texas, and California remained pending and one new lawsuit was filed in California against privately owned and operated immigration detention facilities contracted by DHS. These lawsuits allege the contractors forced noncitizens to work in violation of the TVPA during their federal detention. DHS is not party to the lawsuits, nor are any of its component agencies.
Advocates again asserted labor by individuals in immigration detention and prisons perpetuates slavery and its legacy of racial injustice. They continued to call for the government to end its use of labor in immigrant detention facilities, whether government-operated or operated through contracts with private entities, as these detained individuals have not been convicted of a crime. They continued to call on the government to close all privately run immigration detention facilities and amend the U.S. Constitution to eliminate the exception to the Thirteenth Amendment that allows for slavery or involuntary servitude as punishment for those convicted of a crime.
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, including complaints or investigations related to temporary foreign worker programs. Where appropriate, DOL refers these cases for criminal investigation. In FY 2022, DOL continued such enforcement activities in industries including agriculture, construction, food services, direct care services, and warehouse and logistics. In FY 2022, DOL worked with criminal law enforcement agencies in 22 trafficking cases by making referrals, receiving referrals for investigation, and assisting with the computation of restitution for victims. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal employment discrimination statutes and continued to investigate civil employment discrimination charges filed by or on behalf of victims of trafficking and seek compensation where evidence of discrimination was found. At the conclusion of the investigation, the EEOC has the authority to file lawsuits to protect the rights of individuals and the interests of the public; it litigates a small percentage of the charges it investigates. In FY 2022, the EEOC received three new charges of discrimination linked to human trafficking, compared to 15 in FY 2021. For the seven charges of discrimination the EEOC resolved in FY 2022, the EEOC recovered over $191,000 in monetary benefits, compared to $6,750 in monetary benefits it recovered in resolution of charges in FY 2021. As of September 30, 2022, the EEOC had 10 pending charges linked to human trafficking.
Advocates again called for expanded authorities and additional resources to be allocated to DOL and the EEOC to enhance efforts to address labor trafficking cases and to ensure labor violations are thoroughly investigated.
The government made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, including by prosecuting individuals for purchasing or attempting to purchase commercial sex acts involving children. DHS conducted operations targeting online platforms used by sex traffickers to disrupt and dismantle their operations and to identify and assist victims of human trafficking. The government’s ad hoc working group on demand reduction examined how the role of demand for inexpensive labor in direct care services has resulted in labor trafficking. The government provided anti-trafficking training to its diplomats. The government also provided anti-trafficking training to its troops prior to their deployment as peacekeepers; however, an international organization reported there was one new allegation of sexual exploitation with trafficking indicators by a U.S. peacekeeper deployed to a UN peacekeeping mission in Mali in 2022.
Advocates called for greater efforts to address demand for all forms of human trafficking. Advocates urged the government to ensure stakeholder engagement on demand reduction is trauma-informed, is survivor-informed, and prioritizes the inclusion of diverse experiences and voices.
The government made efforts to reduce the demand for participation in extraterritorial sexual exploitation and abuse (commonly referred to as “international sex tourism”) by its citizens, including by proactively investigating allegations of child sexual exploitation crimes perpetrated overseas by U.S. citizens and partnering with foreign law enforcement counterparts to share information regarding international travel of registered child sex offenders. Nine defendants were federally convicted in FY 2022 of engaging in extraterritorial child sexual exploitation and abuse, compared to four in FY 2021. Offenders who abuse children abroad may have been prosecuted under other statutes, which are not reflected in this statistic.
DOJ and other federal law enforcement agencies did not receive any allegations of forced labor or recruitment fees charged to third-country nationals working on certain U.S. government contracts abroad. DOJ did not initiate any federal criminal prosecutions of employers or labor contractors for such violations in FY 2022.
The U.S. Congress passed a law to strengthen enforcement of U.S. government contract regulations on human trafficking by requiring agencies to refer reports of violations of the anti-trafficking regulations within contracts or grants to the agency’s suspension and debarment official. The Office of Management and Budget worked with agencies to identify 56 categories of services that may be at heightened risk of trafficking in persons. The government held a public meeting to provide resources and information on preventing human trafficking in global supply chains and public procurement. As of May 2022, the government fulfilled its requirement for key agencies to designate a senior accountable official to enhance effective implementation of anti-trafficking acquisition rules and best practices. During FY 2022, DHS did not debar any entities from conducting business with the federal government and referred one individual for prosecution for engaging in human trafficking; DoD debarred one individual from conducting business with the federal government for violating contracting prohibitions related to human trafficking.
Media reports alleged labor trafficking of foreign workers by U.S. government contractors on U.S. military bases overseas. The reports raised concerns that private defense contractors and subcontractors confiscated foreign workers’ identity documents, charged illegal recruitment fees, and violated contracts. These reports called for enhanced transparency and oversight of federal defense contracts, including making publicly available the names of contractors with substantiated trafficking violations, and alleged that at least 10 companies with past trafficking violations continued to receive U.S. government contracts.
The government increased efforts to prevent human trafficking in U.S. private sector supply chains. DHS continued to enforce 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 received 29 allegations and issued two Withhold Release Orders and zero findings for shipments of goods where information reasonably indicated that merchandise within the purview of Title 19 U.S. Code section 1307 is being, or is likely to be, imported into the United States. This resulted in the identification of 917 shipments valued at over $110 million for forced labor enforcement actions or review, compared with 42 allegations and one finding resulting in the detention of 1,469 shipments worth approximately $486 million for the previous reporting period. DHS modified two Withhold Release Orders and one finding after determining the companies remediated concerns about the use of forced labor. DHS did not collect any civil penalties for violations of U.S. trade law regarding goods produced with forced labor.
The government increased efforts to prevent U.S. businesses and consumers from interacting with or purchasing from entities engaged in forced labor and human rights abuses in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the People’s Republic of China and beyond, including by imposing export and import controls and issuing sanctions against officials and entities. In accordance with the law, the government began implementing a strategy to prevent goods made with Uyghur and other minorities’ forced labor in the People’s Republic of China from entering U.S. markets. In June 2022, DHS began implementation of a rebuttable presumption that all goods manufactured wholly or in part in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region or identified on a public list are the product of forced labor and not entitled to entry at U.S. ports of entry. DHS stopped 3,581 shipments valued at more than $1.08 billion under the law.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative established a committee focused on combating forced labor and child labor in traded goods and services to inform a trade strategy to combat forced labor. DOL updated its online tools to add additional best practices for companies and industry groups to identify risks of forced labor in their supply chains and new data related to which U.S. imports may be at higher risk for being made with child labor, forced labor, or forced child labor. HHS launched a public-private working group composed of stakeholders across the healthcare and public health sectors and published guidance on addressing forced labor in healthcare and public health supply chains. The Department of Commerce launched a public-private partnership to facilitate efforts to prevent forced labor and other labor abuses across the seafood supply chain. To address child labor violations in the United States, particularly of unaccompanied children referred to HHS’s care and custody, DOL and HHS launched an interagency task force to combat child labor exploitation and announced a series of actions to enhance efforts to vet sponsors of unaccompanied children, provide additional follow-up and case management services post-release, investigate child labor violations, and hold companies accountable for violating U.S. child labor laws. HHS and DOL also entered into an agreement to address the need for increased information sharing, coordination, training, and education.
Advocates called on the government to dedicate additional resources to evaluating U.S. supply chains for forced labor, including forced child labor, to encourage companies to implement transparency measures and hold companies accountable.
The government convened a trilateral meeting with the governments of Mexico and Canada, and with Indigenous women leaders from all three countries, on violence against Indigenous women and girls, including human trafficking. The three countries issued a joint statement reaffirming their commitment to advance prevention efforts and the responses of their justice, health, education, and child welfare systems to gender-based violence, including human trafficking, in Indigenous communities; increase support for survivors to access justice; and enhance regional coordination efforts to better address the root causes that increase vulnerability. DHS created an Indigenous languages plan following consultations with Indigenous migrant community leaders that includes recommendations on how DHS can improve language access for Indigenous migrants served by DHS programs, activities, and operations. To better respond to cases of missing or murdered Indigenous people, HHS expanded its national human trafficking hotline outreach to providers with trauma-informed training and culturally and linguistically appropriate competencies for inclusion in the hotline referral directory. In FY 2022, HHS delivered specialized training and technical assistance to behavioral health and substance use treatment providers serving eight federally recognized tribes and one Native American community on how to build their organizational capacity to identify, treat, and respond to human trafficking and its intersection with co-occurring mental health disorders. The Department of the Interior provided training on human trafficking in tribal communities to tribal law enforcement, government personnel, and members of the public. In FY 2022, HHS again funded a grant program to strengthen the response to victims of human trafficking and to provide comprehensive case management services for Indigenous survivors of human trafficking in Alaska, Hawaii, Minnesota, North Carolina, Washington, and Wisconsin. HHS continued to deliver online training and technical assistance to health care and social service providers serving American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders regarding human trafficking, its impact, and how to build culturally responsive, trauma-informed responses. In FY 2022, DOJ awarded more than $28 million to tribal governments under its program to address domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, sex trafficking, and stalking and awarded more than $1.5 million to tribal governments to exercise special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction. DOJ awarded $2.95 million to increase victim-centered services available to assist tribal victims of human trafficking in urban areas.
Advocates again expressed concern that the government did not comprehensively address human trafficking within American Indian and Alaska Native communities. Advocates again recommended increased investment and support in these communities, including trauma-informed cultural humility training for service providers, law enforcement, and court systems, and more culturally appropriate and community-specific support and services.
U.S. INSULAR AREAS
Trafficking in persons occurs in the U.S. insular areas, including American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI).
In Guam and CNMI, DHS continued to engage with community partners to provide victim services, train law enforcement, and share strategies for improving victim identification. DOJ continued to advance an initiative that enhances coordination with stakeholders in the Pacific Region on victim services, law enforcement responses, training, community outreach, and prevention programs. DOJ and DHS continued to participate, along with local authorities in Puerto Rico, in the crimes against children task force. In Puerto Rico, DHS engaged with federal, state, and local partners to combat sex trafficking and sexual exploitation of minors as well as the prevalence of online child sexual abuse material, including providing trainings on these topics.
HHS coordinated services and made referrals for foreign national victims of trafficking identified in CNMI, Puerto Rico, USVI, and other U.S. territories. Two DOJ grantees provided comprehensive and legal services to victims of all forms of trafficking in the Northern Mariana Islands, and DOJ funded an ECM anti-trafficking task force in Guam. HHS delivered training of trainers and follow-on technical assistance in response to needs identified by Indigenous Pacific Islander community leaders, including in Guam and CNMI, to strengthen anti-trafficking responses in the Pacific region.
As part of the prosecution statistics previously mentioned, DOJ filed one new human trafficking case in Puerto Rico, and convicted one defendant in Puerto Rico and one defendant in the U.S. Virgin Islands.