A Presidential Agenda for Abolishing Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking

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Trafficking in Persons (TIP) represents a grave affront to the U.S.’ security, economy, and national values, degrading and reducing human beings to commodities that can be exploited for commercial sex acts or labor. The Administration of Donald J. Trump is taking office at a pivotal moment in the fight against TIP. The President-elect has a historic opportunity to chart a course towards a new age of liberty—bringing freedom, empowerment, and justice to millions of people around the world while safeguarding the jobs, rights, and security of all Americans here at home.

The battle against TIP has been bipartisan, with champions driven by a shared moral and national security imperative. While progress has been made in recent decades, human trafficking remains a $150 billion global criminal business with a conservative estimate of more than 21 million people ensnared in conditions of forced labor at any one time.

Trafficking victims are children, women, and men—U.S. citizens and foreign nationals—who are exploited for both sex and labor. Trafficking victims come from urban and rural communities. They are both undocumented and documented immigrant workers. They are not only victimized overseas, but also throughout the United States. Traffickers exploit weak law enforcement regimes and abuse legal structures and institutions, and they target the most vulnerable in society. This often includes runaway and homeless youth; the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer (LGBTIQ) community; Native Americans; Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders; migrant workers (including non-Spanish speaking migrants from Central America who have not benefited from Spanish language outreach and engagement); youth of color; children; low literacy or numeracy individuals; and those with disabilities.

TIP is a complex, multi-layered issue. First and foremost, it is a crime. Law enforcement plays a crucial role in combating TIP, fighting traffickers who operate locally and also those who operate transnationally. Holding traffickers accountable promotes the rule of law and engenders critical trust in our justice system. TIP is also an economic issue: forced labor degrades work conditions in the United States and around the world, artificially suppressing wages and fueling unfair competition on the basis of human exploitation. This happens when domestic or foreign competitors of law-abiding American businesses undercut labor costs by trafficking workers in other countries.

Challenging the crime of human trafficking in the United States and around the world will require new and smarter strategic investments and engagement by the United States Government (USG), continuing and deepening a survivor-informed and survivor-centered approach. The current levels of USG investment in fighting trafficking are orders of magnitude below the levels needed to make a significant difference. Labor and sex trafficking generates hundreds of millions of dollars in illicit revenue for traffickers, who make 1,000 times more in profits than the USG invests to stop them.

The members of ATEST write this report with an urgent call for the President-elect and his team to undertake a deliberate, forward leaning, and strategic initiative to combat human trafficking. We urge the President-elect to reject half-measures in fighting this moral outrage and national security threat, as too many politicians in the past have done. We urge him instead to set the United States on a course to abolish human trafficking.

Read the full report here.