U.S. Battle Against Human Trafficking Intensifies

By Jane Morse
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington - The Bush administration has intensified its battle against human trafficking with encouraging results: Convictions of human traffickers have jumped 109 percent in five years, according to the Department of Justice.

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales issued an 89-page report March 15, showing that from fiscal year 2001 through fiscal year 2005, the Justice Department filed 91 trafficking cases, an increase of more than 300 percent over the number of trafficking cases filed during the previous five years.  In these cases, the department charged 248 trafficking defendants - a 210 percent increase over the previous five years.  Additionally, the department obtained convictions for 140 defendants of trafficking-related crimes - a 109 percent increase - over the previous five years.

Gonzales unveiled the report at the 4th Annual Freedom Network USA Conference, "New Voices and Strategies on Human Trafficking," at the Chicago-Kent School of Law.

In his remarks, Gonzales condemned human trafficking as modern day slavery and traffickers, who frequently subject their victims to horrific abuse, as "peddlers of broken promises."

The victims of traffickers, he said, frequently are "vulnerable people who hope for a better job or a better education or a better life - only to fall prey to someone's evil plans of servitude and slavery."

The U.S. Justice Department, along with local law enforcement and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) is taking "an aggressive, proactive, and victim-centered approach to prevention, investigations and prosecutions," Gonzales said.  "We've deployed a comprehensive strategy that includes federal and state lawmakers, dedicated investigators, tough prosecutors, the international community, and the partnership of federally-supported victim services and outreach programs," he said.

In addition to catching more human traffickers, this approach has helped nearly 1,000 human trafficking victims and directed more than $30 million in grants to task forces and victims groups across the United States, he said.  "Thanks to the Justice Department's strong working relationship with many victim-services groups," Gonzales said, "there are a number of success stories that span the universe of human trafficking victims - migrant field workers, indentured servants, sweatshop workers, and child and adult sex slaves."

Gonzales praised the work of victims-services organizations that counsel and help rehabilitate the trafficking victims.  "Victims of human trafficking often are without a voice or advocate.  They too often are uneducated, unsophisticated, and unable to speak English.  But they are not undeserving of our help," he said.  He also said that once assured of their safety, the victims are more likely to testify against the traffickers.

"We can't solve the problem only by helping victims," Gonzales said, "we have to take down the traffickers who trade in exploitation."

Also on March 15, Gonzales announced that the U.S. Justice Department, working with international authorities, charged 27 individuals involved in a private Internet "chat room" used to facilitate the trading of thousands of images of child pornography worldwide, including streaming videos of live molestations. Those charged were citizens of United States, Canada, Australia and Great Britain.

The full text of Gonzales March 15 remarks and a fact sheet on human trafficking are available on the department’s Web site.

For more information on U.S. policy and programs, see Human Trafficking.