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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Trafficking in Persons: U.S. Policy and Issues for Congress

Liana Sun Wyler
Analyst in International Crime and Narcotics

Alison Siskin
Specialist in Immigration Policy

Trafficking in persons (TIP) for the purposes of exploitation is believed to be one of the most prolific areas of international criminal activity and is of significant concern to the United States and the international community. The overwhelming majority of those trafficked are women and children. According to Department of State estimates, roughly 800,000 people are trafficked across borders each year. If trafficking within countries is included in the total world figures, official U.S. estimates are that some 2 to 4 million people are trafficked annually. However, there are even higher estimates, ranging from 4 to 27 million for total numbers of forced or bonded laborers. As many as 17,500 people are believed to be trafficked to the United States each year. Human trafficking is now a leading source of profits for organized crime syndicates, together with drugs and weapons, generating billions of dollars. TIP affects virtually every country in the world.

Since enactment of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (P.L. 106- 386), the Administration and Congress have aimed to address the human trafficking problem. The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005 (TVPRA of 2005), which President Bush signed into law on January 10, 2006 (P.L. 109-164), authorized appropriations for FY2006 and FY2007. The 110th Congress passed The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-457, signed into law on December 23, 2008). The Act, among other provisions, authorizes appropriations for FY2008 through FY2011.

On June 16, 2009, the State Department issued its ninth annual, congressionally mandated report on human trafficking. In addition to outlining major trends and ongoing challenges in combating TIP, the report provides a country-by-country analysis and ranking, based on what progress foreign countries have made, from April 2008 through March 2009, in their efforts to prosecute, protect, and prevent TIP. The report categorizes countries into four "tiers" according to the government's efforts to combat trafficking. Those countries that do not cooperate in the fight against trafficking (Tier 3) have been made subject to U.S. foreign assistance sanctions. The Tier 3 group named in 2009 includes a total of 17 countries: Burma, Chad, Cuba, Eritrea, Fiji, Iran, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mauritania, Niger, North Korea, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, and Zimbabwe. In September 2009, President Barack Obama determined that two Tier 3 countries will be sanctioned without exemption (Cuba and North Korea) and that six Tier 3 countries will be partially sanctioned (Burma, Eritrea, Fiji, Iran, Syria, and Zimbabwe).

Obligations for global and domestic anti-TIP programs, not including operations and law enforcement investigations, totaled approximately $99.4 million in FY2008. The second session of the 111th Congress may continue to exercise its oversight of TIP programs and operations. Related policy issues include how to measure the effectiveness of the U.S. and international responses to TIP, including the State Department's annual TIP rankings, the use of unilateral sanctions, and how to balance border control and law enforcement efforts against TIP perpetrators with victim prevention and rehabilitation efforts. Other issues are whether to include all forms of prostitution in the global definition of TIP, and whether sufficient efforts are applied to addressing all forms of TIP, including not only sexual exploitation, but also forced labor and child soldiers.

Date of Report: May 20, 2010
Number of Pages: 56
Order Number: RL34317
Price: $29.95

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