2019 TIP Report Raises Challenging Questions about Sanctions and Future Rankings

While presenting this year’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report last week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a pointed message: “If you don’t stand up to trafficking, America will stand up to you.”

The 2019 report, however, raises questions about whether the Trump Administration will deny vital development assistance to victims and the vulnerable in countries on the Tier 3 list, and whether America will stand up to its own standards by applying the same scrutiny toward itself as it does toward other countries.

Tier 3 Sanctions: Sanctions can play an important role in pushing governments to take more action to combat trafficking. There are now 21 countries with a Tier 3 ranking, meaning their governments do not meet minimum anti-trafficking standards and are not making an effort to do so. These rankings can trigger sanctions, and each year the president determines if non-humanitarian, non-trade related aid should be cut. Last year, however, the president issued broadly-worded Tier 3 sanctions that caused a wide range of international development projects to be slashed — even projects that reduce vulnerability to trafficking in many of the world’s poorest nations. These decisions ran contrary to the intent and purposes of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). The TVPA only calls for sanctions on aid to governments – it does not call for cutting off funding for democracy and governance, human rights, education and health programs with civil society in Tier 3 countries. In fact, S.1862 passed by Congress late last year and signed by the president, requires the State Department to work with Tier 3 countries to develop national anti-trafficking action plans. ATEST urges the Trump Administration to properly implement anti-trafficking laws by allowing U.S. international development assistance to reach people in Tier 3 countries, and funding programs that address the underlying root causes of human trafficking. 

U.S. Tier Ranking and Tier Ranking Standards: The 2019 report’s section on the United States shows a significant decline in protections for victims of trafficking, even though the U.S. received a Tier 1 ranking. For example, in FY 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reported a 16 percent drop in T-visas that allow foreign victims trafficked into the U.S. to remain. Additionally, the processing time for T-visas was almost two years, when in past reports it has been one year or less. Further, temporary protections granted to immigrant victims of trafficking by DHS declined by almost 25 percent. The report also highlighted continued arrests of trafficking victims for crimes their traffickers force them to commit, and new U.S. policy that restricts victims service providers from seeking vactur relief on behalf of trafficking victims. Further, U.S. policies over the past year around populations especially vulnerable to trafficking — including immigrants, LGTBQ, and those in poverty — mean that many are more vulnerable to being trafficked and those being trafficked are less likely to report the crimes against them.  If these policy shifts and reductions had occurred in another country, would it qualify for a Tier 1 ranking? It is important for the U.S. to lead by example. New TIP Report integrity provisions recently approved by Congress and signed by the president require that tier rankings be based on concrete results. Those new standards were not applied in the current reporting cycle because they were enacted late in the year. ATEST urges the State Department to rigorously evaluate all nations in the coming TIP Report cycle, including the U.S.

Uzbekistan Tier Ranking: The 2019 report retains a Tier 2 Watch List ranking for Uzbekistan, however a Tier 3 ranking is merited. Recent reports indicate that 170,000 people were forced by the government to work in the country’s cotton harvest, though that figure understates the extent of the problem.  A new report indicates the Uzbek government is currently conducting a large forced mobilization of workers to perform construction repair work in cities and towns across the country.

Global Prosecutions: The TIP Report reveals a disturbing trend: the prosecution of human trafficking cases (sex and labor) dropped by 36 percent worldwide last year, with forced labor prosecutions dropping by 47 percent. State Department figures reveal that global law enforcement remains heavily focused on sex slavery. With 11,096 prosecutions worldwide in 2018, only 457 cases were for forced labor violations. ATEST urges the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to address this decline in trafficking prosecution with targeted projects that include training and technical assistance in prosecuting all forms of human trafficking.

Media contact: Terry FitzPatrick | 571-282-9913 [email protected]

The Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST) is a U.S. based coalition that advocates for solutions to prevent and end all forms of human trafficking and modern slavery around the world. ATEST advocates for lasting solutions to prevent labor and sex trafficking, hold perpetrators accountable, ensure justice for victims and empower survivors with tools for recover. ATEST’s collective experience implementing programs at home and abroad provides the coalition with unparalleled breadth and depth of expertise. ATEST member organizations include: Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), Free the Slaves, Human Trafficking Institute, National Network for Youth (NN4Y), Polaris, Safe Horizon, Solidarity Center, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, United Way Worldwide, Verité, and Vital Voices Global Partnership.