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National Worker Exploitation Task Force

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Coming Together to Combat Modern-Day Slavery

It is profoundly troubling that the problem of slavery continues into the new millennium. While we discuss this problem using such terms as trafficking and worker exploitation, we should make no mistake about it – we are talking about slavery in its modern manifestations. While some of the schemes and practices employed by traffickers reflect the sophistication of the modern world, others are basic and barbaric. Regardless of how sophisticated or simple trafficking enterprises may be, at bottom they all deny the essen tial humanity of the victims and turn them into objects for profit.

The federal government is working to combat this tragic problem. In 1998, the Attorney General ordered the creation of an interagency task force to focus on the problem of worker exploitation. The Worker Exploitation Task Force (WETF) is co-chaired by the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights and the Solicitor of Labor. This effort has brought a range of investigative and prosecutorial agencies to the table. U.S. Department of Justice components include the Civil Rights and Criminal Divisions, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), U.S. Attorneys’ offices, the Office of Policy Development, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the Violence Against Women Office. U.S. Department of Labor components include the Office of the Solicitor, the Wage and Hour Division, and the Women’s Bureau. Outside partners include the U.S. Departments of State and Agriculture, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In addition, the WETF has created fifteen regional task forces, each of which has points of contacts from local U.S. Attorneys’ offices, INS, the FBI, the Department of Labor, the EEOC, and state and local law enforcement. The regional task force approach has allowed investigators and prosecutors to share information and coordinate their efforts. We believe that by pooling
information, expertise, and resources and by using all of the legal authority available to these agencies, we can make a difference.

New Law, New Opportunities

The recently enacted Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 established important new tools and resources to combat trafficking and to provide vital assistance to its victims. An Internet link to the new law can be found at The law creates new felony criminal offenses to address slavery and peonage, sex trafficking in children, and the unlawful confiscation of a victim’s passport or other identification documents. It creates a new “forced labor” felony that will provide federal law enforcement with the ability to prosecute the sophisticated forms of nonphysical coercion that traffickers use today to exploit their victims. And it requires traffickers to pay full restitution to victims and to forfeit their assets if convicted.

The new law also provides essential services and protections for trafficking victims. The law makes victims eligible for a broad array of federal benefits, requires procedures to ensure victims’ safety and assistance while in the government’s custody, and creates grants to develop programs to assist trafficking victims. Moreover, the new law makes such victims eligible for temporary nonimmigrant visas so that they can remain in the United States to help law enforcement in the prosecution of traffickers. The new law also requires that several federal agencies establish public awareness and information programs about trafficking and the protections that are available to victims. Traffickers who prey on vulnerable individuals shall be brought to justice, and victims of trafficking must be treated with dignity and afforded vital assistance and protection.

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Updated August 6, 2015