US Makes Significant Progess to Combat Modern Slavery

The United States recognizes that human trafficking shatters families and communities.

Reports say around the world, as many as 27 million men, women, and children toil in bondage.

On her remarks at the annual Meeting of the President’s Interagency Task Force To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the annual event is a good opportunity to hear about the progress that US government is making to combat modern slavery and to talk about US goals going forward.

Photograph of a slave boy in Zanzibar. ‘An Arab master’s punishment for a slight offence.’ c. 1890.

Ms. Clinton says the issue is very near and dear to her heart, since the time she was first lady. She adds she had the experience of meeting with survivors at home and around the world.

“I’ve seen firsthand what a horrible toll this takes, and so I’m delighted that we have such a dedicated group of members.” -Ms. Clinton

The White House recently issued a National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security to ensure that women are full partners and participants in our efforts to reduce conflict and promote peace and prosperity around the world, because after all, modern slavery disproportionately affects women and girls, Ms. Clinton reported.

“Human trafficking disrupts family networks, and it undermines the foundation of stable economies and societies.” -Ms. Clinton

The Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security contains specific steps to prevent human trafficking of women and children as a result of conflict and to provide assistance to victims, Ms. Clinton noted

The State Department has made the struggle against modern slavery an important part of our diplomatic engagement, she cited.

She stresses that US annual Trafficking in Persons Report is the most comprehensive assessment of how well governments are doing to address this crime.

The TIP Office’s foreign assistance grants are making a difference in 37 countries, supporting programs that provide crucial assistance to survivors and help governments build their capacity to fight this crime.

The US leadership has pooled the international community to get behind the effort as well.

Nearly 140 countries have enacted modern anti-trafficking laws, and nearly 150 are party to the UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol, Ms. Clinton noted.

The United States is trying to ensure that resources and support are available to victims, and one of those resources is the Department of Health and Human Services National Human Trafficking Resource Center.

She cites that the Center is really making a difference in reaching out to survivors and helping us prosecute abusers.

The US now now have online tools like the Slavery Footprint so that people can understand the ways in which this crime affects them.

The United States is confident that the Administration working together, with civil society, with not-for-profits, with the private sector, the world can actually tackle this issue head on and conquer it.

At the annual meeting, Attorney General Holder also discussed the progress that US has made over the past year.

Mr. Holder also identify ways in which the US governmnet can continue the momentum that we have built up over the past year and make sure that all that we have pledged to do in this Administration actually does occur.

“For Justice, our commitment to preventing human trafficking, bringing traffickers to justice, and assisting victims has really never been stronger, and our approach, I don’t think, has ever been more effective.” -Mr. Holder

In 2011, the United States has a record number of people with human trafficking offenses, and over the last three years the US government has achieved significant increases in human trafficking prosecutions, including the rise of more than 30 percent in the number of forced labor and adult sex trafficking prosecutions.

Mr. Holder stresses that this work is really more than statistics. It has saved lives. It has ensured freedom.

“It has restored dignity to women, to men, to children, in virtually every corner of this country. We have liberated scores of victims.” -Mr. Holder

The US government has secured long prison sentences against individual traffickers. It has also dismantled really large transnational organized crime enterprises.

The Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team, or ACT Team, initiative that’s an interagency collaboration among the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Labor, was implemented to streamline federal criminal investigations and prosecute human trafficking offenses.

The United States has also launched six Phase One Pilot ACT Teams around the country. And they are located in Atlanta, El Paso, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Memphis, and Miami, and today these teams are fully operational.

Mr Holder underlines that by bringing federal investigative agencies and federal prosecutors together, they are allowing us to develop and to advance high-impact human trafficking prosecutions.

In 2011, the United States ahs dismantled a large transnational organized crime enterprise that held Ukrainian victims in forced labor in Philadelphia.

“We have brought freedom and dignity to undocumented Central American women and convicted the traffickers who, with threats of violence and abuse, compelled them into forced labor and prostitution in restaurants and bars on Long Island in New York.” -Mr. Holder

The United States has restored freedom to undocumented Eastern European women and convicted the traffickers who brutally exploited them in massage parlors in Chicago and even branded them with tattoos to claim them as their own property.

We have secured a life sentence against a gang member in the Eastern District of Virginia, just across the river here, for sex trafficking of victims as young as 12 years old, Mr. Holder reported

Mr. Holder stresses that by providing grant funding to state and local law enforcement partners and to victims service organizations really across the country, the Justice Department is also supporting proactive efforts to stop traffickers and to help victims heal and to rebuild their lives.

For the entire anti-trafficking community, the US is continuing to provide training and technical assistance as well.

In 2011, efforts have included hosting three regional training forums that have focused on improving collaboration as well as the development of a training curriculum to help state prosecutors and state judges better understand human trafficking crimes.

The United States is working with Mexican law enforcement partners, the collaboration has dismantled sex trafficking networks that operate on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border and have brought freedom to victims and secured really landmark convictions and substantial sentences against the traffickers in these high-impact bilateral cases.

The United States underlines that combating human trafficking is an affront to its most fundamental values.

Anywhere from 12 to 27 million people are currently held in forced labor, bonded labor, or forced prostitution. That’s equivalent to all the people who live in London at the low end and the combined populations of New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. at the high end.

The victims range from the men and women enslaved in fields, factories, and brothels to the girls and boys whose childhoods have been shattered and stolen, to the parents whose children have vanished.

Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain English. Mina Fabulous is the pen name of Carmen Avalino, the NewsBlaze production editor. When she isn’t preparing stories for NewsBlaze writers, she writes stories, but to separate her editing and writing identities, she uses the name given by her family and friends.