Human Rights Quarterly 23.4 (2001) 1135-1141
[Access article in PDF]
Trafficking in Persons Report
Trafficking in Persons Report (Department of State, United States of America, July 2000)
It is reported that between 45,000 and 50,000 individuals, most of them women and children, are trafficked into the United States each year--primarily by small crime gangs and loosely connected criminal networks. 1 The majority of these persons have entered the migration process willingly, only to be tricked, sold, coerced or otherwise procured into situations of exploitation from which they cannot escape. Many are physically detained by their "employers" or are tied to their situations through debt-servicing agreements which amount to little more than bondage. Others are intimidated in less direct but no less effective ways. Trafficking is not, of course, confined to the United States. Widespread economic hardship, onerous obstacles to legal migration and internal armed conflict have coincided with a reported rise in the number of cases of trafficking in all regions of the world as well as a spreading of the problem to areas which were previously less affected.
Trafficking is vastly profitable 2 and relatively "low-risk" in the sense that apprehension is unlikely, prosecutions rare and punishment relatively light. 3 In the United States, for example, traffickers have, until very recently, been prosecuted under a range of criminal, labor and immigration statutes. 4 The lack of any comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation and a failure to fully appreciate the seriousness of the abuses involved has meant the imposition of relatively light sentences for even the most egregious offences. 5 A report commissioned by the CIA notes that while the maximum federal sentence for dealing in ten grams of LSD is life in prison, the maximum possible custodial punishment for selling a human being into involuntary servitude is only ten years. 6 At the same time, most victims of trafficking are jailed and summarily deported. 7 The absence of witnesses able or willing to testify against traffickers is another, significant obstacle to effective law enforcement.
The United States government has been at the forefront of the fight against trafficking both at home and abroad. Since 1996, the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (NLS) of [End Page 1135] the State Department has funded over $9 million in programs to address trafficking and related violence against women. 8 The INL Bureau also led the US delegation in negotiations for new international agreements on trafficking and migrant smuggling. 9 On International Women's day, 1998, President Clinton reiterated the commitment of his government to this issue and announced a series of measures aimed at suppressing trafficking and protecting victims. 10 Principle responsibility, in this regard, was given to the Secretary of State and the president's Inter-Agency Council on Women. The attorney-general was also directed to review existing laws and prosecution efforts and make recommendations for changes which might be necessary.
After extensive discussion and negotiation both within and outside Congress, the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act of 2000 was signed into law on 11 October 2000. 11 The Act addresses a number of the problems identified above by increasing the maximum penalty for trafficking-related offences and lowering the standard of proof required for conviction. The Act includes a comprehensive range of assistance measures for victims both within and outside the United States. 12 It also establishes a high level Inter-Agency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking consisting of the Secretary of State, the Director of USAID, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Labor, the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Director of the CIA. 13 One principal responsibility of the Task Force will be to monitor and evaluate the efforts of the United States and other countries to prevent trafficking and protect and assist victims. Task Force agencies are to provide the required staff for a new Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking which is to be established within the Department of State. 14
The Act sets minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking which are applicable to "the government of a country...