ILR School

Trafficking in Persons: U.S. Policy and Issues for Congress

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Trafficking in people for prostitution and forced labor is one of the most prolific areas of international criminal activity and is of significant concern to the United States and the international community. The overwhelming majority of those trafficked are women and children. According to the most recent Department of State estimates, roughly 800,000 people are trafficked across borders each year. If trafficking within countries is included in the total world figures, official U.S. estimates are that some 2 to 4 million people are trafficked annually. However, there are even higher estimates, ranging from 4 to 27 million for total numbers of forced or bonded laborers. As many as 17,500 people are believed to be trafficked to the United States each year. Human trafficking is now a leading source of profits for organized crime syndicates, together with drugs and weapons, generating billions of dollars. Trafficking in persons affects virtually every country in the world. Since enactment of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-386), the Administration and Congress have aimed to address the human trafficking problem. The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005 (TVPRA), which President Bush signed into law on January 10, 2006 (P.L. 109-164), authorized appropriations for FY2006 and FY2007. The State Department issued its seventh congressionally mandated Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report on June 12, 2007. Each report categorizes countries into four tiers according to the government’s efforts to combat trafficking. Those countries that do not cooperate in the fight against trafficking (Tier 3) have been made subject to U.S. sanctions since 2003. Sixteen countries were placed on Tier 3 in the 2007 report. On October 18, 2007, President Bush imposed new trafficking in persons related sanctions on Burma, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Venezuela. In the 110th Congress, there are several bills with trafficking-related provisions. The Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007 (P.L. 110- 53) directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to provide specified funding and administrative support to strengthen the Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center. H.R. 3887 (Lantos), approved by the House on December 4, 2007 by a vote of 405-2, would, among other provisions, reauthorize anti-trafficking programs through FY2011, and amend the criminal code and immigration law related to trafficking. It is likely to be considered by the Senate early in the second session of the 110th Congress. Another bill, H.R. 2522 (Lewis), would establish a Commission to evaluate the effectiveness of current U.S. anti-slavery efforts, including anti-trafficking in persons programs, and make recommendations. S. 1703 (Durbin), approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 20, 2007, would create additional jurisdiction in U.S. courts for trafficking offenses occurring in other countries. This report will be updated periodically to reflect major developments.

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forced labor; prostitution; human trafficking; public policy; Congress


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