Department of Justice Seal

Remarks as Delivered by Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey at the 2008 National Conference on Human Trafficking

Atlanta, Georgia
Tuesday, September 9, 2008 - 9:00 A.M. EDT

Good morning. As you know, I had planned to join you at this important conference. Sadly, I am unable to do so because I am attending the funeral of a DEA agent killed while attending a training conference. I am sorry not to be with you – especially so given the reason for my absence. But I am grateful for the opportunity to talk to you briefly by video, and I look forward to other chances to meet and work with you all in person.

A little more then seven years ago, a bipartisan coalition in Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. That Act gave us several important new tools in the fight against human trafficking. Equally important, it was the sign of a shift in the government’s approach to this appalling crime, to a model that treats victims as victims, and puts them front and center, in enforcement, in prevention, and in the restoration of their rights.

In the seven years since the Act was passed, we have made the most of this new approach, and of our enhanced enforcement abilities. Working with the 38 Human Trafficking Task Forces around the country, and with our other partners, at all levels of government, and outside government, we have brought record numbers of cases and obtained record numbers of convictions. Led by the Civil Rights Division, the Department of Justice over the last seven years has increased, by nearly seven-fold, the number of human trafficking cases filed in court as compared to the previous seven fiscal years. And that figure doesn’t even count the child prostitution and sex tourism cases brought by the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section and its partners.

We convicted traffickers who coerced two victims from Indonesia into domestic service in their home in New York, and then used beatings, starvation and threats to force them to work up to 20 hours a day.

We convicted a man who took a young girl from a motel in Fenton Missouri, to St. Louis, gave her crack cocaine, forced her to engage in prostitution to pay off her drug debt, and then traded her to another man who did the same.

And we’ve broken up international criminal syndicates, that are involved in recruiting victims, smuggling them into the United States, and enslaving them here. In one egregious case, for example, we convicted two traffickers in New York, who used a network of recruiters and document fixers to smuggle women into our country, where they then held them in debt bondage, beat them, raped them, made them take drugs, and then forced them into prostitution.

In each of our cases, there is a victim or victims who we have saved from a life of horror and brutality. In total, over the last seven years, we have helped more than 1300 victims from 80 countries. That is the true measure of our success. It is for those people – those who are victims, as well as those who could become victims in the future – that we do this important work.

The Justice Department could not – and thankfully does not – do this work alone. Many of you here, especially those of you representing non-governmental organizations, have been sounding the call for a long time. I thank you, not only for all you have done to raise awareness, and to keep attention on these issues, but also for what you have done to work with, and for, the victims in these cases.

We rely on you – our partners in and out of government. We rely on the outreach efforts of the Departments of Homeland Security, State, Labor, and Health and Human Services, the contacts and credibility of community organizations, and the local knowledge of police and sheriffs' departments. And we rely on other countries around the world.

With you, we have worked, and will continue to work, to protect victims' family members, who are being threatened by traffickers and their associates. With you, we have worked, and will continue to work, to locate witnesses, and to gather information to help us catch more traffickers. And, most important, with you, we have worked, and will continue to work, to meet the humanitarian needs of trafficking victims, and to reunite them with the families who never thought they would see their loved ones again.

Together, we've accomplished a lot, but we have a lot more to do. We must keep up our efforts to conduct outreach and to identify victims -- that is absolutely vital to our continued success. We must do all we can to make those victims whole, and to help them recover. And we must keep up the pressure on trafficking organizations, and dismantle them – the supply side and the demand side; the traffickers, the money men, their accomplices and partners – wherever in the world they are.

This we must do, for the sake of all victims. Whether their servitude lasts for years or days; whether they are forced to clean houses, to sew cut-rate clothing, or to engage in commercial sex; whether they are U.S. citizens or foreign-born, they are the victims of modern day slavery. There is no humane way to treat a slave – slavery, by definition, is an act of inhumanity. It is a scar on the soul, as well as the body.

Human trafficking is a big and serious problem, and we need all the help we can get, from all of you, and from all around the world.

So thank you for the work that you do – for striving to make sure that our country fulfills its promise of liberty and justice for all.

Thank you.