WASHINGTON – 2011 marks a year of crucial decisions in the fight against human trafficking.The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 is up for reauthorization this year. The legislation was the first federal law to combat human trafficking. Its goals are to prevent human trafficking,protect victims and prosecute traffickers.
Human trafficking is defined as holding a person in involuntary servitude whether for forced labor,to satisfy a debt or prostitution.
The 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report will be issued in June and has potential to reflect poorly on several major U.S. allies. The 2010 report was the first to list the United States for not collecting better data or prosecuting more cases.
“Modern slavery,often hidden and unrecognized,persists today on every continent and,most tragically,right here in the United States,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said at the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Human Trafficking meeting Tuesday at the State Department.
Clinton,Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.,Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis and other cabinet-level officials came together for the annual meeting that outlined the department’s plans to battle human trafficking.
“The innovations offered at today’s meeting show that leaders across the Obama administration are making anti-trafficking efforts an important priority,” Luis CdeBaca,ambassador-at-large to monitor and combat human trafficking,said at a special briefing after the meeting.
Officials at the meeting discussed conducting a government-wide review of victims’ service programs and increasing awareness in government agencies and schools. Clinton announced the State Department will begin an annual briefing for visiting diplomats and their domestic workers and that the Bureau of Diplomatic Security will establish an anti-trafficking unit to support its field offices.
“The last 10 years we have established the structures and laws and commitment of the government to fight this. There have been bursts of activity within administrations – a few people go to jail,but nothing’s sustained. I think we should be very impatient,and I think we have an opportunity to change that trend,” CdeBaca said at a discussion sponsored by the D.C. Bar Association on Thursday.
CdeBaca,David Abramovitz,director of policy and government relations at Humanity United,and Neha Misra,senior specialist on migration and trafficking at the Solidarity Center,spoke and answered questions to an audience of lawyers,human trafficking abolitionists,students and others at Patton Boggs LLP,a law firm.
The 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report will be issued in June. It rates all countries that fail to fully comply with anti-trafficking standards. Tier 1 countries comply with the minimum standards. That is the U.S. rank.
Below that is Tier 2 and the Tier 2 Watch List,countries that face possible demotion to Tier 3 if they are on the watch list for two consecutive years. These countries may be making efforts to comply but fall short in several areas,including an increasing number of victims,lack of evidence of their efforts and possible government involvement in trafficking.
At Tier 3,countries face sanctions such as the U.S. government withholding certain assistances or funding and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank withholding their services.
“Now,this is an uncomfortable position for them to be in and for us,” Clinton said. “And as I travel around talking to heads of state and governments and ministers,they watch this very closely,and they often raise questions about their position on this list.”