Today, the U.S. Department of State released the 15th annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. This report collects information from U.S. embassies, government officials, nongovernmental and international organizations, published reports, news articles, studies and research to evaluate each country’s action to combat trafficking through the three P’s: Prevention, Prosecution, and Protection.
The Department places each country onto one of four tiers, as mandated by the TVPA:
- TIER 1 – Countries that fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.
- TIER 2 – Countries that do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to do so.
- TIER 2 WATCH LIST – Countries that do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to do so, though trafficking is increasing and there is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat trafficking from the previous year.
- TIER 3 – Countries that do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.
Since the United States was first included in the TIP Report evaluation in 2010, the country has received a Tier 1 ranking.
Below is a summary of how the U.S. measures up on key issues. For a full report, read the Trafficking in Persons report. All excerpts taken directly from the 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report.
In addition to federal laws, state laws form the basis of the majority of criminal actions, making adoption of state anti-trafficking laws key to institutionalizing concepts of compelled service for rank-and-file local police officers. A 2014 NGO report found improvement in states’ anti-trafficking laws in recent years, but noted that funding to ensure the implementation of these new laws was a challenge. The report also found there is still a need for state laws that comprehensively assist and protect victims of human trafficking.
The United States improved its delivery of a victim-centered, multidisciplinary response to victim identification and services, certified a significantly higher number of trafficking victims, provided services to more victims, and increased funding for these services. The federal government has formal procedures to guide officials in victim identification and referral to service providers; funds several federal tip lines, including an NGO-operated national hotline and referral service; and funds NGOs that provide trafficking-specific victim services.
“And if there is a single theme that connects the diverse work of these heroes, it is the conviction that there is nothing inevitable about trafficking in human beings. It’s a choice.” Secretary of State John Kerry
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provided comprehensive case management for foreign national and domestic trafficking victims and funded capacity-building grants for child welfare systems to respond to trafficking. DOJ provided comprehensive and specialized services for both domestic and foreign national trafficking victims. Federal funding for victim assistance generally increased in FY 2014.
Although federal, state, and local grant programs existed for vulnerable children and at-risk youth, child trafficking victims, especially boys and transgender youth, faced difficulties obtaining needed services. During the reporting period, HHS maintained level funding to train service providers for runaway and homeless youth and continued to provide formal guidance to states and service providers on addressing child trafficking, particularly as it intersects with the child welfare system and runaway and homeless youth programs. An NGO noted reports of gang-controlled child sex trafficking and of the growing use of social media by traffickers to recruit and control victims.
Some trafficking victims, including those under the age of 18 years, were detained or prosecuted by state or local officials for criminal activity related to their being subjected to trafficking, notwithstanding “safe harbor” laws in some states or the federal policy that victims should not be penalized solely for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking. Therefore, the U.S. should encourage the adoption of victim-centered policies at the state and local levels that ensure victims, including children, are not punished for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking; support appropriate housing for child trafficking victims that ensures their physical and mental health and safety; increase screening to identify trafficked persons among at-risk youth, detained individuals, persons with disabilities, and other vulnerable populations.
TRAINING AND AWARENESS
The U.S. government continued efforts to train officials and enhanced its efforts to share information. For example, DOJ developed an online e-guide to provide guidance for effective taskforce operations and engaged in extensive capacity building for law enforcement, military personnel, social service providers, labor inspectors, pro bono attorneys, and others. DHS updated a web-based training course and produced training videos for law enforcement.
The government also continued to conduct a number of awareness activities for its personnel, including general awareness trainings, trainings specific to law enforcement and acquisition professionals, and increased efforts to train staff in field offices. NGOs noted prevention efforts should better emphasize victims’ rights and protections under federal law and should seek survivor input to better reach potential victims.
DOJ prosecutes human trafficking cases through the 94 U.S. Attorney’s Offices (USAOs) and the two specialized units that serve as DOJ’s nationwide subject-matter experts. Taken together, DOJ initiated a total of 208 federal human trafficking prosecutions in FY 2014, charging 335 defendants. Of these prosecutions, 190 involved predominantly sex trafficking and 18 involved predominantly labor trafficking, although some involved both. These figures represent an increase from FY 2013, during which DOJ brought 161 prosecutions charging 253 defendants. During FY 2014, DOJ secured convictions against 184 traffickers, compared with 174 convictions obtained in FY 2013. Of these, 157 involved predominantly sex trafficking and 27 involved predominantly labor trafficking, although several involved both. These totals do not include child sex trafficking cases brought under non-trafficking statutes. Penalties imposed on convicted traffickers ranged from five years to life imprisonment. For the first time, the government used an extraterritorial jurisdiction provision of the law to convict a trafficker for sex trafficking that took place in another country.
The U.S. government undertook efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex and forced labor in the reporting period. DHS worked with city and state partners to raise awareness of trafficking in advance of the 2015 Super Bowl.