Trafficking In Persons And Worker Exploitation Task Force


The Trafficking in Persons and Worker Exploitation Task Force (TPWETF) seeks to prevent trafficking in persons and worker exploitation throughout the United States and to investigate and prosecute cases when such violations occur. The criminal involuntary servitude statutes are critical tools in this effort, which recognizes that trafficking in persons is a form of modern-day slavery. The Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division has primary enforcement responsibility for the involuntary servitude and peonage statutes and plays an active role as a leading member of the TPWETF.

The TPWETF is chaired by the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights and the Solicitor of Labor. Other Department of Justice participants in this national effort include the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, the Criminal Division, the Office of Victims of Crime and the Violence Against Women Office. The TPWETF also works in coordination with the Department of Labor, Department of State, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and various United States Attorneys' offices across the country.


  • Investigation and Prosecution
    • The Criminal Section works closely with the FBI, the INS, and the 94 U.S. Attorneys Offices to ensure that allegations of trafficking and slavery are investigated and prosecuted. Section Attorneys conduct grand jury investigations and prosecute cases. Since the creation of the TPWETF, the number of open slavery investigations in the Section has tripled.

    • The Criminal Section works with Victim/Witness Coordinators from FBI, INS, U.S. Attorneys Offices, and the Executive Office for United States Attorneys to assist victims of trafficking in receiving health care, housing, and other protections as befits their status as victims of crime.

    • The Criminal Section draws on its experiences in investigating and prosecuting trafficking cases to assist the Administration in formulating policy to combat trafficking in persons and worker exploitation in a systematic and proactive fashion.
  • Outreach
    • The Criminal Section has created an outreach program to:
      • educate victims of trafficking about their rights;
      • create dialogue and build trust with community and non-governmental organizations to support our efforts to detect, investigate, and prosecute trafficking cases, and to assist victims;
      • provide education and training assistance to law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and victim/witness staff.

Since enactment of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, (VTVPA) which became effective on October 28, 2000, the TPWETF has sought to provide information to advocacy organizations and service providers to invite their participation in the effort to combat trafficking in persons and worker exploitation in light of the new tools available under the new legislation. The VTVPA amended the slavery statutes to make prosecutions more effective and to increase the statutory maximum sentences that traffickers will face. The VTVPA also created new protections for victims of trafficking. A letter (html and pdf), fact sheet (html and pdf), and poster (html and pdf were developed as part of this effort.


Trafficking in persons-- often involving the recruitment and smuggling of foreign nationals into the United States to force them to submit to abominable conditions -- amounts to modern-day slavery. People are forced to work in factories, fields, restaurants, and homes. Many women and children are forced into prostitution or other illicit sexual activity.

In one case, Mexican farm workers were smuggled into the United States and then held and forced to work for their captors to pay off their smuggling fees. Fees were usually $5,000 or more and the victims were held by threats of violence. According to the victims, they were smuggled into the United States in a van and during the three-day trip, were not allowed to leave the van for bathroom breaks or for food. The youngest victim was 13 years of age.

In another instance, Russian women were recruited and imported into the United States as folk dancers. Instead, they were forced to work as exotic dancers. The women were not free to leave their employment, were threatened with violence if they attempted to escape, and had their travel documents and return airline tickets confiscated by their employer. The women were forced to turn over their earnings to their captors.


To report suspected instances of trafficking or worker exploitation, please contact the FBI field office nearest you or contact the Trafficking in Persons and Worker Exploitation Task Force Complaint Line at 1-888-428-7581 (weekdays 9 AM - 5 PM EST). The TPWETF Complaint Line call is toll-free and offers foreign language translation services in most languages as well as TTY. After business hours, the Complaint Line has a message service in English, Spanish, Russian, and Mandarin only.

FACT SHEET: Distinctions Between Human Smuggling and Human Trafficking, JANUARY 2005 (Published by The Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center)


The Department of Justice has collaborated with the Departments of State, Health and Human Services and Labor to develop two brochures on trafficking in persons. One brochure is for law enforcement to provide to trafficking victims whom they encounter (html and pdf). This brochure provides basic information about the rights of victims of trafficking in the United States and describes assistance and protections that may be available. The other brochure is more detailed and is intended for non-governmental organizations, such as service providers and other community-based organizations, to use as a reference guide to help trafficking victims (html and pdf).

See also, Report on Activities to Combat Human Trafficking, Fiscal Years 2001-2005 (50MB) -- Introduction, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Appendices



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Updated August 6, 2015

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