Trafficking in Women
The U.S. is a source, transit and destination country for victims of human trafficking. According to a 2010 report, major reasons for human trafficking into the U.S. involve forced labor, debt bondage and forced prostitution. Today, in addition to individual state laws, the U.S. has in place a variety of measures addressing trafficking, encompassing both statutes and policy initiatives. The United States Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) to prohibit trafficking, punish traffickers, and protect victims. Federal statutes governing sex trafficking include 18 U.S.C. §§ 1591, 2421, 2422, and 2423. Section 1591 prohibits traffickers from affecting interstate commerce by recruiting or enticing victims to engage in commercial sex acts. Section 2421 prohibits traffickers from transporting persons over state or international lines to engage in commercial sex acts. Section 2422 prohibits traffickers from using the mail or other means to entice or coerce victims to travel for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts. Lastly, Section 2423 prohibits traffickers from transporting minors across state or federal borders for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts and prohibits persons from traveling to engage in illicit sex acts. A person who violates these laws is subject to criminal penalties ranging ten years to life in prison.
 
o    The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (“TVPA”): T he TVPA was the first comprehensive federal law addressing human trafficking, encompassing criminal statutes prohibiting the practice, public awareness programs designed to help prevent human trafficking, and measures (such as specialized immigration requirements) to help protect victims of human trafficking. (See e.g. Immigration Relief below.) The TVPA provides for enhanced penalties for all severe forms of human trafficking, which includes sex trafficking for sex for commercial purposes (“sex trafficking”) and for forced labor (“labor trafficking”). Under the auspices of the TVPA, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit prosecuted 114 individuals and obtained 47 convictions in 2009. Penalties include life imprisonment and the possibility of severe economic sanctions.
 
o   There have been several significant revisions/additions to the TVPA:
 
·        Trafficking Victims Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2003 (“TVPRA”): This law added several features to the original TVPA provisions, including (i) allowing trafficking to serve as a predicate for RICO (organized crime law) charges and (ii) allowing victims to sue traffickers in U.S. courts. This law requires U.S. government contracts to contain clauses allowing the government to terminate the contract if a contractor commits trafficking offenses while the contract is in force. The law further requires that travelers to the U.S. be informed of the laws against sex tourism.
 
·        TVPRA of 2005This law provides U.S. courts with authority to decide cases where federal government employees and contractors are alleged to have committed human trafficking offenses outside the U.S. The law directs the FBI to investigate severe forms of trafficking, both domestic and non-domestic. The U.S. Attorney General is required to study and report to Congress on the status of human trafficking in the U.S., as well as the progress of law enforcement measures to combat human trafficking. The law also establishes a grant program to aid state and local governments in investigating and prosecuting sex trafficking.
 
·        William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008This act enhances federal measures to combat trafficking by creating a nation-wide system for monitoring trafficking activity. It includes provisions designed to aid prosecution for trafficking crimes, such as reducing the standard of proof of a defendant’s mental state to "reckless disregard" for sex trafficking crimes. Notably, the act requires the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) to create a set of model laws making all acts of pimping and pandering per se crimes, even without proof of force, fraud, or coercion, and regardless of a victim’s age. In addition, the act includes various new requirements for data collection and reporting of trafficking crimes.
 
o   Immigration Relief for Non-citizen Victims:
 
·        T-Visas: “T-Visas” were created by the TVPA (2000). In essence, T-Visas are a special class of visa that allow victims of severe forms of human trafficking to live, receive services, and work in the U.S. for four years or possibly longer. The condition is that the victim of human trafficking must help law enforcement investigate the crime of human trafficking (This condition does not apply to a victim who is under 18 years old). In addition, T-Visa status may be extended to an applicant’s immediate family members (e.g. children, or parents of victims under 18 years old). T-Visas create a means for victims to seek permanent residency in the U.S.
 
o             U-Visas: The purpose and effect of U-Visas are similar to those of T-visas, but are available for victims of a variety of qualifying criminal activity, including, but not limited to, trafficking, rape, sexual assault, prostitution, and domestic violence. Like the T-visa, victims are required to assist in the investigation and prosecution of the crime. A U-Visa may be issued to a victim of substantial physical or mental abuse resulting from criminal activity taking place in the U.S. or which violates U.S. laws. Victims must have information about the crime and demonstrate that she “has been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful” in the investigation or prosecution of the crime, and obtain Certification from a Certifying Agency. Unlike recipients of the T-Visa, U visa applicants or recipients are not eligible for public benefits. Once the U visa is approved, a recipient is allowed to live and work legally in the U.S. for up to four years, with the possibility to apply for legal permanent residency after three years. U visa recipients may petition for their spouse, children and qualifying family members to come to the U.S.  
 
o   The Mann ActThis law was not originally enacted to address human trafficking, but today it is frequently used to prosecute sex traffickers. This law makes it a federal crime to knowingly transport any person in interstate or foreign commerce for prostitution, or for any sexual activity that is punishable under a criminal law. It is also a crime to persuade, induce, entice, or coerce a person to travel across state lines to engage in prostitution or for other immoral purposes, or to attempt to do so.
 
 
 
Sources: 
U.S. Department of State – U.S. Laws on Trafficking in Persons
 
Polaris Project – State and Federal Laws
 
Northeastern University – Federal Human Trafficking Legislation
 
U.S. Department of State – « Trafficking in Persons Report 2010 »
 
Humantrafficking.org – United States Best Practices
 
Womenslaw.org – T-Visa Laws and Trafficking
 
Womenslaw.org – U Visa Laws for Crime Victims