Human trafficking remains a problem in US, advocate says

By Christine Rousselle

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Credit: Tawee wongdee/Shutterstock.

As the Department of State released its 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report this week, an apostolate which helps trafficking victims said that the practice remains a problem around the world, including in the US.

The Trafficking in Persons Report features narratives on each country, and the countries of the world were divided into three tiers. Tier 1 consists of “countries whose governments fully meet the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards.”

Although the United States is classified as Tier 1 country, human trafficking is still a problem here, Children of the Immaculate Heart President Grace Williams told CNA in an interview. Children of the Immaculate Heart is an organization in San Diego that assists those affected by trafficking.

Trafficking is the “fastest growing illegal industry worldwide, and it’s the same here in the United States,” said Williams.

Williams said that the vast majority of people trafficked in the United States are native-born citizens, and not people who were brought across the border. The average age of someone trafficked, Williams said, was 16 years old.

“The number one vulnerability factor, I can say in Los Angeles' court for trafficked minors, was child neglect,” Williams explained, followed by child abuse. Williams told CNA that she believes providing a support system, as well as stemming the culture’s sexual appetite, are key to stopping abuse.

“Kids who don't have the love and support that they need are the ones that traffickers are picking up on, and so that's where our primary work as an American society lies.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday at the release of the 18th annual TIP Report that ending human trafficking should be a bipartisan issue.

In this year’s report, Pompeo highlighted the work done by local communities around the world not only to stop human trafficking, but also to aid the survivors of these crimes.

“Human trafficking is a global problem, but it’s a local one too,” Pompeo said June 28. “Human trafficking can be found in a favorite restaurant, a hotel, downtown, a farm, or in their neighbor’s home.”

Below Tier 1, Tier 2 contains countries that may not meet the TPVA standards, “but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.”

A “Tier 2 Watch List” consists of countries that are similar to Tier 2, but have other issues, such as an increasing number of trafficking cases or a lack of improvement on previously-implemented anti-trafficking efforts.

Tier 3 countries are those “whose governments do not fully meet the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.”

While no country in Africa is classified as Tier 1, Pompeo noted that 14 of the 48 African nations in this year’s report had been upgraded since last year’s TIP Report and offered praise for the work taken by the continent.

“Despite significant security threats, migration challenges, other financial constraints, and other obstacles, the region improved significantly,” said Pompeo.

“We commend those countries taking action, but we also will never shy away from pointing out countries that need to step up.”

First among these was Libya, where Pompeo mentioned the existence of “modern-day slave markets” arising from “trafficking and abuse of African migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers.” Many Africans seeking entry to Europe pass through Libya, which has not had a well-functioning government since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Pompeo said the US has engaged the Government of National Accord, recognized by the UN as Libya's legitimate government, “to bring the perpetrators to justice, including complicit government officials. We welcome its commitment to doing so and look forward to seeing real action.”

Praise was offered for Tier 1 Argentina, which recently convicted government officials who were complicit with trafficking, and Estonia, which passed a law that will assist survivors of trafficking.


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