Marking the tenth anniversary since the US passed the TVPA and the UN adopted the Palermo Protocol may seem like cause enough for marking this year's TIP Report as a particularly special document. However, in addition to these milestones, the United States has been included in the tier rankings for the first time since the State Department began releasing the annual Trafficking In Persons Report. When the news was announced last year that the US would be given a tier ranking along with a summary of government efforts to combat trafficking, it was met with a healthy dose of skepticism: how could the US possibly rank itself honestly and fairly?
Previously, the TIP Report relied exclusively on data provided by the DOJ's report to Congress when adding information about the US's anti-trafficking effort. This year, however, Secretary Clinton stated that, "“We have to ensure that our policies live up to our ideals, and that is why we have for the first time included the United States.”
The US was given a Tier 1 ranking (the highest out of the four rankings a country may receive), which came as a surprise to no one. What is surprising is the diversity of information provided by the summary of the DOS findings. While you will find more information by accessing the report itself, there are a few highlights that stood out to me:
Eighty-two percent of these foreign adult victims and 56 percent of foreign child trafficking victims were labor trafficking victims.The statistic in and of itself does not surprise me; the majority of the cases at the organization which I currently work are those trafficked for labor purposes. The percentage of child labor trafficking victims did surprise me, however, and later in the report, it mentions that the gender split in child labor trafficking victims was nearly 50-50.
What the report also mentions, of course, is that the standardization of data collection in the US has yet to develop, which is why, still to this day, we do not have an accurate representation of what trafficking looks like in the US. What will also be more helpful to understanding trafficking is data collection that reflects the nuances of cases that involve both sex and labor trafficking.
Forty-two states have enacted specific anti-trafficking statutes using varying definitions and a range of penalties. Such statutes are only gradually coming into use; during the reporting period, two states obtained their first convictions under anti-trafficking statutes passed in 2003 and 2007.Again, not surprising, but still a pretty sad statistic. The report also mentions the disparities between states on public benefits that are available to survivors.
In a separate effort, some state and local law enforcement agencies operate under cooperative agreements following section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which authorizes the federally supervised enforcement of certain immigration authorities related to the investigation, apprehension, and detention of unauthorized immigrants in the United States. Participants in the 287(g) agreement must undergo training on victim and witness protections, including victim-based immigration relief. However, victim advocates reported that this training has not enhanced the response to or identification of trafficking victims or other immigrant victims of crime.Now this surprised me in the sense that I would not have connected the 287(g) agreements with anti-trafficking efforts and I was surprised to see them mentioned at all in the TIP Report. 287(g) agreements have come under severe criticism by immigration and victim service advocates because of the role it gives law enforcement officers who would otherwise not be enforcing federal immigration law. Local and state law enforcement officials can enter into agreements with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to enforce immigration law. The fear this type of cooperation places on immigrants and migrant workers was noted in the recent HRW report on child labor in agriculture, a previous Justice Strategies report, among others. It would interesting to see if there were any concrete examples of successful identification of trafficking victims as a direct result of these agreements.
While there has been a 210 percent increase in certifications of foreign victims over the past five years, there has been no corresponding increase in funding for services. In each of the last three years, the U.S. government exhausted the funding allotted for the reimbursement system before the end of the year.The report goes into further detail about the complications and burden the funding delivery structure also places on service providers; a problem that most directly affects survivors.
Allegations of U.S. government contractors and subcontractors engaging in forced labor and procuring commercial sex acts were well-publicized, most recently involving private security firms hired by U.S. embassies as well as DOD contractors...During the reporting period, although allegations have been investigated, no contractors were prosecuted and no contracts were terminated. An additional Department of State report to Congress is forthcoming in the summer of 2010.I had heard information about the involvement of slave labor in the building of US embassies abroad, most notably through The Slave Next Door, but less about the security firms. Hopefully the report to Congress will contain productive information.
Of course, the report made a lengthy list of general recommendations that the US should engage in order to improve its response: improve data collection, increase law enforcement training, increase funding to service providers, improve cooperation among stakeholders, make immigrant and migrant workers more aware of their rights. As Ambassador Lu CdeBaca put it, "As we celebrate the timeless words of our Constitution’s 13th Amendment – that '[n]either slavery nor involuntary servitude … shall exist' – we recognize that such absolute guarantees need to be constantly enforced lest they only be words on a page."
Hopefully, with a more continuous process to collect the information on effort in the US for the TIP Report, these recommendations, however vague, will become more than just words on a page.