Human trafficking policies

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This article is part of the community project
Project:Asian American Public Policy
by students at the University of Maryland.

Articles are under construction until late May, so please refrain from editing until then.

Human trafficking is “[t]he recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation". [1]





Human trafficking, also known as slavery in the 21st century, has become more prevalent internationally throughout the years. The United Nations lists human trafficking as the "third largest source of money for organized crime" after guns and drugs. [2]
Possible causes are:

  • lack of awareness
  • poverty
  • material expectation, such as money
    • promise of a good job in another country
  • lack of education
  • corruption
  • weak enforcement of laws
  • cultural factors, such as women's roles in family, children's roles in family
  • deception
    • false marriage proposal
    • sold into sex trade by parents, husbands, boyfriends
  • kidnapping by traffickers

New prevention methods have been established, yet human trafficking still goes unnoticed. Although the resources and information is available, deciphering them into reality continues to be problematic.

In the United States, of the state and federal legislation existing, the most important one is the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.

Types of Human Trafficking

Labor Trafficking

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) classifies labor trafficking to be "[t]he recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery". [1]


Several forms of labor trafficking exist, such as bonded labor, forced labor and child labor.

  • Bonded Labor

Although it is the least known form of labor trafficking today, bonded labor, or debt bondage is the most widely used method of enslaving people. Victims become bonded laborers when their labor is demanded as repayment for a loan or service in which terms and conditions have not been defined. The value of their work is greater than the original sum of money borrowed.

  • Forced Labor

Victims are forced to work against their will under the threat of violence or another form of punishment, their freedom is restricted, and a degree of ownership is exerted. Forms of forced labor can include domestic servitude, agricultural labor, sweatshop factory labor, janitorial, food service and other service industry labor, and begging.

  • Child Labor

Child labor is hazardous to the health and/or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development of children and can interfere with their education. The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 246 million exploited children aged between 5 and 17 involved in debt bondage, forced recruitment for armed conflict, prostitution, pornography, the illegal drug trade, the illegal arms trade and other illicit activities around the world.

Sex Trafficking

Sex trafficking is a "modern-day form of slavery in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act is under the age of 18 years".


Victims of sex trafficking are forced into various forms of sexual exploitation.

  • Prostitution and pornography

The most exploitive form of commercial sex operation, prostitution and pornography can be found in highly visible venues such as street prostitution, massage parlors, spas, strip clubs, and underground brothels. Victims may also start by dancing or stripping in clubs and then be coerced into situations associated with prostitution and pornography.

  • Mail-order brides

Adults and girls are offered to the public as brides but sold privately into prostitution, forced into marriage, or held in domestic slavery. [3]

  • Military prostitution
  • Live-sex shows
  • Sex tourism

Statistical Data

  • United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
    • 79% of human trafficking takes place for sexual exploitation and the victims are predominantly women and girls.
      • Surprisingly, in 30% of the countries which provided information on the gender of traffickers, women make up the largest proportion of traffickers.
    • The second most common form of human trafficking is forced labor (18%). Worldwide, almost 20% of all trafficking victims are children; however, in some parts of Africa and the Mekong region, children are the majority (up to 100% in parts of West Africa).
    • Globally, traffickers are profiting $5-7 billion made from trafficking.

  • United States Department of State
    • In 2007, the United States government continued to advance the goal of eradicating human trafficking in the country. This coordinated effort includes several federal agencies and approximately $23 million in Fiscal Year 2007 for domestic programs to boost anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, identify and protect victims of trafficking, and raise awareness of trafficking as a means of preventing new incidents.
    • The Federal Bureau of Investigation and DOJ’s Criminal Division continued to combat the exploitation of children in prostitution in the United States through the Innocence Lost National Initiative; in FY 2007, this Initiative resulted in 308 arrests, 106 convictions, and 181 recovered children.
There is an extremely high volume of individuals being trafficked into the United States.

Popular Culture

News Coverage


TV Shows

  • CSI:NY She's Not There; Season 5, ep. 14
  • Lie To Me Deprave Heart 2009; Season 1, ep. 8

Current legislation and regulations

Current Bills[3]


  • To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to comprehensively reform immigration law, and for other purposes.
    • Calls for the establishment of the ‘Task Force to Rescue Immigrant Victims of American Sex Offenders.'
  • In the House of Representatives
  • Introduced January 7, 2009
  • Sponsor: Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee [D, TX-18]


  • Recognizing the importance of the Border Patrol in combating human smuggling and commending the Department of Justice for increasing the rate of human smuggler prosecutions.
  • In the House of Representatives
  • Introduced January 6, 2009
  • Sponsor: Rep Darrell Issa [R, CA-49]


  • To provide discretionary authority to an immigration judge to determine that an alien parent of a United States citizen child should not be ordered removed, deported, or excluded from the United States.
  • In the House of Representatives
  • introduced January 6, 2009
  • Sponsor: Rep. José Serrano [D, NY-16]


  • Denouncing the practices of female genital mutilation, domestic violence, "honor" killings, acid burnings, dowry deaths, and other gender- based persecutions, expressing the sense of Congress that participation, protection, recognition, and equality of women is crucial to achieving a just, moral and peaceful society, and for other purposes.
  • In the House of Representatives
  • Introduced January 6, 2009
  • Sponsor: Sheila Jackson-Lee [D, TX-18]

U.S. laws

13th Amendment of the US Constitution

Passed on January 31, 1865 and ratified on December 6, 1865, the 13th Amendment forbids slavery and involuntary servitude in the United States.

Executive Order 13126

Signed July 12, 1999, Executive Order 13126 is designed to prevent federal agencies from purchasing goods or services produced with forced or indentured child labor.

Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA)

Also called Public Law 106-386 and passed at the 106th Congress on October 28, 2000, the purpose of the TVPA is to "to combat trafficking in persons, especially into the sex trade, slavery, and involuntary servitude, to reauthorize certain federal programs to prevent violence against women, and for other purposes." [8]

Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2003

Passed at the 108th Congress on January 7, 2003, this act supplements the TVPA by authorizing federal funding for 2004 and 2005 to pay for the programs outlined in the TVPA.

Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005

Passed at the 109th Congress on January 4, 2005, this act supplements the TVPA by authorizng federal funding for 2006 and 2007 to pay for the programs outlined in the TVPA.

William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008

Passed at the 110th Congress on January 3, 2008, this act supplements the TVPA by authorizing federal funding for the programs outlined in the TVPA from 2008 through 2011.

Food Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (“Farm Bill”) Section 3205 (b)

Passed June 18, 2008, Section 3205 (b) of the "Farm Bill" establishes the Consultative Group to Eliminate the Use of Child Labor and Forced Labor in Imported Agricultural Products. The goal of this group is to "develop recommendations relating to guidelines to reduce the likelihood that agricultural products or commodities imported to the United States are produced with the use of forced labor and child labor." [9]

Title 18 of the US Code: Chapter 77: Involuntary Servitude, Forced Labor, and Sex Trafficking Statuses Enforced

Updated in 2008, Chapter 77 of Title 18 of the US Code provides provisions targeting human trafficking. It forbids holding a person in peonage and/or involuntary servitude, prohibits forced labor by means of threats, scheme, and/or abuse, and states federal punishments for labor and sex trafficking.

Combative methods


Spreading public awareness about human trafficking serves as the most effective form of prevention. Since human trafficking is extremely well hidden and victims are often too afraid to come forward, the federal government relies partially on the public to report suspected operations.


Victims of human trafficking are offered federal protection under the TVPA. Protection includes assistance finding housing, job training, education, health care, and additional social services. The TVPA establishes "T Visas," which are temporary visas for trafficking victims. Up to 5,000 T Visas can be given to victims each year. Victims are also eligible for the Witness Protection Program.


Chapter 77 of the United State's Code Title 18 outlines federal punishments for human trafficking. The TVPA strengthen federal regulations concerning human trafficking and harshened penalties for traffickers.

Human trafficking is a federal crime. Convicted traffickers face the following punishments:

  • For Peonage, Slavery, Involuntary Servitude, or Forced Labor:
    • Traffickers face fines and/or imprisonment for up to 20 years
    • ‘‘If death results or if the [trafficking] includes kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or the attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill" the trafficker faces life in prison [13]
  • For Sex Trafficking of Children or by Force, Freud, or Coercion:
    • Traffickers who exploit children under 14 years old or use force, fraud, or coercion for sex trafficking can face life in prison
    • Traffickers who exploit children 14-18 years old without using force, fraud, or coercion face up to 40 years in prison and/or fines
  • Anyone knowingly in control of a victim's official or forged documentation can face fines and/or up to five years in prison

Articles and resources


  1. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Human Trafficking, 2009.
  2. United States Customs and Border Protection, Keynote Remarks from CBP Commissioner W. Ralph Basham, September 25, 2008.
  3. OpenCongress, "Bills: Human Trafficking", March, 5, 2009
  4. OpenCongress, "H.R.264", February 9, 2009
  5. OpenCongress, "H.Res.14", February 9, 2009
  6. OpenCongress, "H.R.182", February 9, 2009
  7. OpenCongress, "H.J.Res.10", January 7, 2009
  8. United States Department of State, Victims of Trafficking and Violence Act of 2000, October 28, 2000.
  9. United States Department of Labor: Bureau of International Labor Affairs, Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 ("Farm Bill"), May 3, 2009.
  10. Prevent Human Trafficking, "Executive Letter", 2007.
  11. US Department of Heath and Human Services, Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 Fact Sheet, October 2000.
  12. United States Code Title 18, Chapter 77, Involuntary Servitude, Forced Labor, and Sex trafficking Statutes Enforced, July 25, 2008.
  13. United States Code Title 18, Chapter 77, Involuntary Servitude, Forced Labor, and Sex trafficking Statutes Enforced, July 25, 2008.

External Links

Government Agencies

Non-Government Organizations