Human Trafficking Part 4
Governmental laws against trafficking
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of the United States has a three part plan to stop human trafficking: through prevention, prosecution, and protection. It was the first law to address trafficking within the United States. However, this kind of work has just started, as human trafficking was not even monitored until 1994. The TVPA has prosecuted for victims that have come from all over the world, but it has its limitations as victims must be fully willing to assist with every part of the investigation, and may have trouble keeping their stories straight due to constant questioning (Hopper: 2004).
The TVPA, by its own wording, only intends to prevent and prosecute severe forms of trafficking (Trafficking Victims Protection Act: Minimum Standards for the Elimination of Trafficking in Persons: 2013). It does, however, reach the minimum requirements for dealing with human trafficking, but each state was in charge of its own anti-trafficking statute, and Wyoming just created its own laws in 2013, far behind the other states. In 2011, the Department of Justice, along with the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Labor launched 40 anti-trafficking task force teams, but by the end that was reduced to 29 teams due to funding (TIP report: 2012).
The Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section of the Department of Justice is primarily in charge of the trafficking situation in the United States, and since the TVPA was initiated the DOJ “has doubled the number of trafficking prosecutions and tripled the number of defendants.” However, many of these cases are mislabeled as worker exploitation rather than actual trafficking, given the traffickers leeway in the justice system (Hopper: 2004).
Victims also have to help to the fullest extent that they can in order to get any help, but language barriers as well as mental struggles can cause problems for them, and they may not get the prosecution of their trafficker or aid that they need (Hopper: 2004). Also, many of these “severe” cases are based on whether or not sex was involved, as the TVPA warrants information for if the government has made serious efforts to reduce the demand for those in the sex trafficking industry, and not for the labor trafficking industry, leaving those in the labor part of the system lacking help, and leaving loopholes for little elimination of the issue (Trafficking Victims Protection Act: Minimum Standards for the Elimination of Trafficking in Persons: 2013).
Prosecution differs between sex trafficking and other types of trafficking. Sex trafficking prosecutions have a minimum of ten years imprisonment attached to punishment, and can be extended to a life sentence. Other types of trafficking, however, have a minimum of 5 years and a maximum of 20 years attached. These conditions are considered stringent, and during the year of 2011, several sex traffickers were given life sentencing, with the average trafficker getting around 11 years of imprisonment (TIP report: 2013). Traffickers, when prosecuted, are automatically made to pay restitution to their victims. In 2008, they had to pay more than 4.2 million dollars to the victims. (Hepburn: 2010).
Protection of the victims includes their necessary involvement with the legal process. Those who are considered minors are not required to help with the investigation, nor are those with psychological trauma. No victim is required to testify in court during the trial. Those who are eligible for services are given visas if they are immigrants, and the United States has a program for all victims that readjusts them to society and back to their families. In 2011, the DOJ had grants with 42 victim service organizations, although funding for some services fell short during the year (TIP report: 2013).
Prevention involves stringent investigations into the work habits of those in the labor force in the United States. In 2012, the United States Agency for International Development, along with the DOL, created a new set of rules for trafficking, leading to the dishonorable discharge of one member from the Department of Defense, as well as an updated list of 130 items from 71 countries that were believed to be made through forced labor. As for awareness, the DHS and the DOS created online awareness training for the public, and the HHS funded 11 projects to promote awareness. The HHS also started an NGO trafficking outline, which received over 16,000 calls in 2011 (TIP report: 2013).
Chicago recently held a seminar for its police force, focusing on being aware of human trafficking. It was attended by about 300 law officials, but the seminar talked about sex trafficking and ignored other types of trafficking that they should be aware of (Chicago Tribune: 2012). In New York, the anti-trafficking law against sex trafficking is significantly more stringent than the labor trafficking laws, due to the effort of lobbyists (Hepburn: 2010). The Department of Labor found nearly 5,000 minors that were illegally employed in labor trafficking during 2008 in the United States, forced to work in hazardous conditions with machinery that they were prohibited to use (Hepburn: 2010).
Non-citizens of the United States are more likely to be forced in labor trafficking than domestic persons, making non-citizens more invisible (Siskin: 2010). Workers can lose their visas when they leave their trafficking situation, which can also lead to them being arrested and deported, despite the fact that they left their work due to dismal conditions (Hepburn: 2010). In fact, in one situation, a victim was forced by a United States law enforcer to stay with the trafficker until he repaid his inflated debt (Hepburn: 2010).
Also, males are generally not considered victims in trafficking situations, even though out of 286 adults certified as victims by the Department of Health and Human Services in 2008, nearly half were male (Hepburn: 2010). This signifies that nearly half of those being trafficked are not only in a hidden population, but also being ignored within that population and lacking the aid that others barely get as it is.