U.S. Agencies Cite Progress Against Human Trafficking

By Jane Morse
Staff Writer

Better coordination among U.S. federal government agencies is showing results in the struggle to end human trafficking, U.S. officials say.

At the annual meeting of the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, held at the White House May 17, Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett, and other agency heads and senior White House officials reported that more public education programs are in play, more employee training programs have been completed, more traffickers have been prosecuted and more victims have been rescued in the year since President Obama ordered better intragovernment cooperation to end what he called “the scourge of modern slavery.”

It is estimated that human trafficking has enslaved 26 million people worldwide and that this crime generates some $32 billion in revenue for traffickers.

Human trafficking is “a moral obscenity” that tears apart families and communities, said Secretary of State John Kerry, who chaired the 2013 meeting. Because human trafficking affects so many areas — such as law enforcement, immigration and health care — the only way to ensure an adequate outcome is to have a cross-government, holistic approach to the problem, he said.

These are among the advances reported by U.S officials to provide a more powerful deterrent to human trafficking:

• The Vision 21 Initiative to better understand and serve the needs of human trafficking victims and to provide them with access to legal services.

• Programs to more closely monitor domestic workers who come into the United States, including those brought into the country to work for diplomatic missions.

• Closer monitoring of U.S. procurement contracts to ensure that trafficking victims are not in any way involved.

• Expanding public knowledge of and access to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, a 24-hour, toll-free hotline designed to guide trafficking victims to the proper services that could help them. The Obama administration budgeted an additional $10 million to insure greater victim access to legal, medical and mental health services via this tool.

• Better training for U.S. labor standards enforcement investigators so that they can more readily recognize trafficking victims.

• Expanding Department of Homeland Security investigative authority over trafficking cases. In 2012, according to Rand Beers, acting deputy secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency made more than 900 arrests and gained 350 convictions of human traffickers.

• More sophisticated use of technology and social media to counter human traffickers and increase public awareness about human slavery.

• Expanding the Blue Campaign, which uses television, print media and the Internet to increase public awareness of human trafficking, train law enforcement and guide victims to sources of aid.

• Increasing partnerships with nongovernmental entities such as MTV cable television (see the MTV EXIT Campaign) to educate audiences around the world about human trafficking.

At this year’s task force meeting, the first two recipients of the Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons were honored:

• Carlson, a global hospitality and travel company that has been exceptionally proactive in adopting measures to train employees and encourage its partners and the broader business community to take a stand against human trafficking.

• Florrie Burke, founder and chair emeritus of the Freedom Network, a U.S. national coalition of anti–human trafficking service organizations and advocates.

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