Today Attorney General Eric Holder joined members of the president’s cabinet and other senior advisors at the White House for a meeting of the Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
For the Department of Justice, our commitment to preventing human trafficking, bringing traffickers to justice, and assisting victims has never been stronger – and our approach has never been more effective. Our work has sent a clear and critical message: that, in this country – and under this Administration – human trafficking crimes will not be tolerated. I’m proud to report that, this past year, we charged nearly 120 defendants – a record number – in human trafficking cases. And, over the last three years, we’ve achieved significant increases in human trafficking prosecutions – including a rise of more than 30 percent in the number of forced labor and adult sex trafficking prosecutions.
This work has saved lives, ensured freedom, and restored dignity to women, men, and children in virtually every corner of the country. We’ve liberated scores of victims; secured long prison sentences against individual traffickers; and dismantled large, transnational organized criminal enterprises.
The Department of Justice’s comprehensive approach to prevent human trafficking involves the work of many offices. That’s why the Attorney General formed the Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team – or “ACTeam” – Initiative, an interagency collaboration among the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Labor aimed at streamlining federal criminal investigations and prosecutions of human trafficking offenses.
The scourge of human trafficking goes beyond our borders. The Department of Justice continues to work closely with our international counterparts. For instance, we’ve advanced the U.S.-Mexico Human Trafficking Bilateral Enforcement Initiative, in collaboration with DHS and Mexican law enforcement counterparts, to develop high-impact bilateral investigations and prosecutions to dismantle international human trafficking networks, resulting in landmark convictions in coordinated prosecutions under both U.S. and Mexican law.
Department officials have also shared their expertise and helped to train hundreds of prosecutors, investigators and law enforcement officials in partner countries abroad through our International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP). ICITAP supported the international anti-human trafficking effort through program activities in seven countries on three continents.
In addition to ensuring those who perpetuate these crimes are found and brought to justice, the department’s anti-trafficking grant programs, training and technical assistance initiatives continue to support communities in building capacity to combat human trafficking and assist victims.
These programs take a multidisciplinary approach to human trafficking prevention and encourage close partnerships among federal prosecutors, state and local law enforcement, victim service providers, and other federal partners, including the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and State.
Supplementing training and grant programs are resources like the Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force Strategy and Operations eGuide, a comprehensive online resource to assist anti-trafficking task forces in establishing, strengthening, and operating multidisciplinary response teams to identify and assist trafficking victims across the country.
To better understand trafficking, the National Institute of Justice continues to expand its research portfolio to understand how and why trafficking occurs, how to best help victims and examine the reasons why these crimes go under-reported in the United States.
The United States is committed to eradicating trafficking in persons, and we will draw on tools ranging from law enforcement and victim service provision, to public awareness building and diplomatic pressure.
The Attorney General and the entire Department of Justice are encouraged by the progress that has been made, but recognize there is still much more to do as we continue the fight against human trafficking.