IOFA Talk

Despite High Rating, U.S. has Room for Improvement

The United States Department of State released the 2014 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report in June, 2014.  This annual report places each country into one of four tiers based on the countries’ efforts to maintain compliance with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act: Minimum Standards for the Elimination of Trafficking in Persons.  In the 2014 TIP Report, the United States ranks on Tier 1, the highest tier possible.  While the United States has made some great advancement in the past years in responding to human trafficking, there continue to be areas of great concern.

In 2013 the FBI was significantly less likely to open a case on a perpetrator of labor trafficking of adults or minors, or an adult sex trafficking case, than they were to open a case of female minor sex trafficking.  Similarly, service providers and law enforcement across the country continue to focus the majority of their resources on responding to minor female sex trafficking survivors, at times to the detriment of victims of other forms of trafficking.  Additionally, services for male and LGBTQ trafficking survivors are severely lacking across the country, especially in the area of housing.  Survivors of all forms of trafficking - regardless their gender identity or sexual orientation - should be afforded the protections they are entitled to according to the TVPA.  Because these populations are perpetually underserved, it is also necessary that programs and funding include resources specifically for survivors of labor trafficking as well as LGBTQ and male survivors, particularly in regards to emergency shelter and long-term housing.

Currently, 42 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws that protect minor sex trafficking survivors by requiring no proof of force, fraud, or coercion, and 18 states, including New York and Illinois have enacted ‘Safe Harbor’ laws.  Despite this, a reported 579 youth under the age of 18 were arrested for prostitution or solicitation in 2013 (U.S. Department of State, 2014).  While this is a decrease of approximately 25% from the previous year, it is appalling that children and youth survivors continue to be criminalized instead of being protected and provided with services.  The United States government urgently needs to provide resources and training to all levels of law enforcement on the issue of sex and labor trafficking of minors to end this violation of their rights.  Training should include information about the identification of male, female and transgender minors in sex and labor trafficking situations and the protections available to survivors under the TVPA and local state laws.

A vast majority of trafficked youth have had contact with the child welfare system.  However, there is virtually no systematic screening of children and youth for trafficking by child welfare agencies across the country.  Through our ChildRight: New York project, IOFA is creating a screening tool to be used by child welfare agencies across New York State to screen minors for trafficking.  Federal programs should require child welfare agencies in each state to screen the children and youth they encounter for sex and labor trafficking. With standardized screening mechanisms in place, child welfare agencies would be better able to identify minor victims, offer the tailored services survivors need, and more accurately quantify the number of minor victims in the United States.

In 2013 the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) decreased its funding for anti-trafficking tasks forces across the country.  These Task Forces are a unique model that mandates collaboration between various agencies, including law enforcement and service providing organizations.  The loss of funding to these programs will negatively impact survivors who rely on these collaborations and enhanced coordination to adequately meet their needs.  Therefore, federal funds must prioritize long-term services and sustainable collaboration between agencies.  Additionally, the DOJ should reinstate funding to these task forces and monitor their efforts to foster strong regional collaborations.

To read the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report, click here.  To learn more about what the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report means for the United States, please see the Freedom Network’s comments on the report. 

- Caitlin Gallacher, ChildRight: NY Intern

References

U.S Department of State. (2014). Trafficking in Persons Report: June 2014.  Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

U.S Department of State, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. (2011).  Trafficking victims protection act: Minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons.  Retrieved from http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/2011/164236.htm

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