Trafficking in Persons in Latin America and the Caribbean

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[Excerpt] Trafficking in persons (TIP) for the purpose of exploitation is a lucrative criminal activity that is of major concern to the United States and the international community. According to the most recent U.S. State Department 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 million to 4 million people are trafficked annually. While most trafficking victims still appear to originate from South and Southeast Asia or the former Soviet Union, human trafficking is also a growing problem in Latin America. The International Organization for Migration (lOM) has estimated that sex trafficking in Latin America generates some $16 billion worth of business annually. Countries in Latin America serve as source, transit, and destination countries for trafficking victims. Latin America is a primary source region for people trafficked to the United States. As many as 17,500 are trafficked into the United States each year, according to State Department estimates. In FY2009, primary countries of origin for the 333 foreign trafficking victims certified as eligible to receive U.S. assistance included Mexico, Guatemala, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic (along with India, the Philippines, and Thailand). Since enactment of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-386), successive Administrations and Congress have taken steps to address human trafficking. In December 2008, the 110th Congress passed The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-457). The act, among other provisions, authorized TIP appropriations for FY2008 through FY2011. Obligations for U.S.-funded anti-TIP programs in Latin America totaled roughly $17.3 million in FY2009, up from $13.7 million in FY2008. On June 14, 2010, the State Department issued its 10* annual, congressionally mandated report on human trafficking. In addition to outlining major trends and ongoing challenges in combating TIP, the 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. foreign assistance sanctions. While Cuba and the Dominican Republic are the only Latin American countries ranked on Tier 3 in this year's TIP report, nine other countries in the region — Barbados, Belize, Guatemala, Guyana, Nicaragua, Panama, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela — are on the Tier 2 Watch List. Unless those countries make significant progress in the next six months, they could receive a Tier 3 ranking in the 2011 report. The 112th Congress may continue to exercise its oversight of TIP programs and operations, including U.S.-funded programs in Latin America. Congress may consider increasing funding for anti-TIP programs in the region, possibly through the Merida Initiative for Mexico, the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) or through other assistance programs. Congress may also monitor new trends in human trafficking in the region, such as the increasing involvement of Mexican drug trafficking organizations in TIP and the problem of child trafficking in Haiti, which has worsened since that country experienced a devastating earthquake on January 12,2010. Another issue of interest may be whether sufficient efforts are being applied to address all forms of TIP in Latin America, including not only sexual exploitation, but also forced labor. For more general information on human trafficking, see CRS Report RL34317, Trafficking in Persons: U.S. Policy and Issues for Congress, by Liana Sun Wyler and Alison Siskin.

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Trafficking in Persons; TIP; human trafficking; Latin America; Caribbean; Congress


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