National Advocacy Center Of The Sisters Of The Good Shepherd

Trafficking Victims Protection Act

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February 2006
 

                            Trafficking Victims Protection Act Reauthorized

 

On January 10, 2006 President Bush signed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2005 (H.R. 972) into law.  This legislation reauthorizes and improves critical programs in the United States’ anti-trafficking efforts, promotes policies to ensure that peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance include strong anti-trafficking measures, and provides new funding to assist victims in the U.S. and abroad.  Some of the specific provisions include:

 

  • New funding to combat commercial sex and prevent trafficking within the United States;
  • A new grant program to help local law enforcement investigate and prosecute act of trafficking and criminals that purchase commercial sex acts within the United States;
  • New grants to assist U.S. citizens and nationals who are victims of human trafficking and to create residential treatment facilities for juveniles subjected to trafficking;
  • New requirements for US assistance programs operating in for post-conflict and humanitarian emergencies to include anti-trafficking measures;
  • Expansion of US courts’ jurisdiction over federal government employees and contractors for trafficking offenses committed abroad;
  • A new pilot program through USAID to support residential treatment of trafficking victims in foreign countries following a study to identify the best practices for rehabilitating victims;
  • A directive to the Secretary of Labor, through the Bureau of International Labor Affairs of the Department of Labor, to carry out specified activities to monitor and combat forced labor and child labor in foreign countries.

 Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000

 (H.R. 3244, Public Law 106-386)

 

The first coordinated U.S. government response to human trafficking came with the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000.  Spearheaded by Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Senators Wellstone (D-MN) and Brownback (R-KS), this legislation provided new protections and assistance for victims of trafficking, created new laws and strengthened penalties to help pursue traffickers, and provided assistance to foreign countries to help address human trafficking.  Some of the key provisions included:

 

Victim Assistance

 

         Allowed victims of severe forms of trafficking to access the resources available to federal crime victims (information about legal rights, translation services, protections while in custody and for family members, etc.) and made them eligible (upon certification by Department of Health and Human Services) for social service benefits to the same extent as refugees;

         Provided grants through the Department of Justice to support non-profit organizations that provide services to trafficking victims;

         Granted victims protection from deportation and created a new category of visa (T) to allow victims (limit of 5,000 visas per year) who cooperate in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking temporary residency and the possibility to adjust to permanent residency after three years; Also granted work authorization to “T” visa recipients;

         Mandated a new public awareness campaign through the Departments of Health and Human Services, Justice, and Labor to educate the public about trafficking and help officials and social service providers identify victims;

 

Prosecution and Penalties

 

         Established new trafficking crimes and increased sentences for those found guilty of trafficking;

         Provided for mandatory restitution to victims and forfeiture of assets upon conviction of trafficking;

 

Foreign Assistance and Prevention

 

         Established the Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking to coordinate efforts among the Departments of State, Labor, Justice, Health and Human Services and the USAID program to prevent trafficking and provide assistance to victims; Established the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking within the State Department (opened October 2001) to spearhead anti-trafficking efforts;

         Mandated a new annual report from the Department of State on the status of trafficking in countries and required new reporting on trafficking in the country reports of countries receiving economic and security assistance from the U.S.; allowed economic sanctions for countries with significant problems with trafficking who are failing to address them;

         Established new grant programs to help foreign countries meet minimum anti-trafficking standards (drafting laws and strengthening prosecution), provide assistance to trafficking victims, and prevent trafficking by raising awareness (through public education programs) and creating greater economic opportunity for potential victims;

 

Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2003

(H.R. 2620, Public Law 108-93)

 

The TVPA was reauthorized (through 2005) and improved in 2003.  The reauthorization included a number of clarifications with regard to child victims of trafficking, enhanced prevention efforts, and granted additional assistance to trafficking victims.  Some of the key improvements included:

 

Protection of and Assistance to Victims

 

         Allowed trafficking victims to sue (file civil suits against) their traffickers to recover damages and legal fees;

         Eliminated the requirement that victims between the ages of 15 and18 and must cooperate with investigation and prosecution in order to qualify for a “T” visa - the 2000 law had required victims age 15 and older to assist law enforcement in order to be eligible for the visa;

         Expanded “T” visa eligibility to the siblings of trafficking victims under the age of 21 (if unmarried) - the 2000 law had extended “T” visas to parents of victims, but not siblings; Extended benefits and services to all victim’s family members that are legally entitled to join them in the U.S.;

         Granted trafficking victims access to discretionary social service programs;

 

Foreign Assistance and Prevention

 

         Encouraged additional initiatives such as training of border guards and border interdiction to prevent trafficking;

         Authorized funding for research on the causes and consequences of domestic and international trafficking, the effectiveness of prevention and victim assistance programs, and the relationship between trafficking and global health;

         Granted U.S. government authority to terminate international contracts (funded through federal grant programs) with any company or organization in which the company or an employee is found to engage in trafficking or the procurement of a commercial sex act;

         Prohibited any U.S. funds authorized to fight trafficking from being used to promote, support, or advocate prostitution or efforts to legalize prostitution;

 

Prosecution and Penalties

 

         Mandated that the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report include a new “watch list” identifying poorly performing countries (countries failing to meet the minimum anti-trafficking standards for consecutive years or those with significant increases in trafficking victims)

         Added human trafficking to the list of racketeering offenses that can be prosecuted under the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) statute;

         Promoted the use of International Law Enforcement Academies to train foreign law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and members of the judiciary regarding human trafficking;

 

Background, Good Shepherd Response, and Links

 

 

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