Justice News

Attorney General Eric Holder Speaks at the Meeting of the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Washington, DC
United States
Thursday, March 15, 2012

As prepared for delivery

Thank you, Secretary Clinton. Let me start by thanking President Obama for hosting us – and for his extraordinary leadership in the global fight against human trafficking. Also, many thanks to my good friend Valerie Jarrett for bringing us together today and for her attention to this issue.

It is an honor to join with this group of colleagues and partners to discuss the progress that has been made over the last year, and to identify ways to build on the momentum that’s been created under this Administration.

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.

As many of you recall, last February, the Justice Department launched a Human Trafficking Enhanced Enforcement Initiative in order to take our counter-trafficking enforcement efforts to a new level. As part of this commitment, I announced 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. Following a rigorous, competitive, interagency selection process, we launched six Phase I Pilot ACTeams around the country, in Atlanta, El Paso, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Memphis and Miami. Today, these teams are fully operational. And, by bringing federal investigative agencies and federal prosecutors together, they’re allowing us to develop and advance high-impact human trafficking prosecutions.

For example, over the last year, we have:

·          Dismantled a large, transnational organized criminal enterprise that held Ukrainian victims in forced labor in Philadelphia;

·          Brought freedom and dignity to undocumented Central American women, and convicted the traffickers who – with threats and violent abuse – compelled them into forced labor and prostitution in restaurants and bars on Long Island;

·          Restored freedom to undocumented Eastern European women, and convicted the trafficker who brutally exploited them in massage parlors in Chicago – and even branded them with tattoos to claim them as his property; and

·          Secured a life sentence against a gang member in Virginia for the sex trafficking of victims as young as 12 years old.

By providing grant funding to our state and local law enforcement these partners – and to victim service organizations across the country – the Justice Department also is supporting proactive efforts to stop traffickers, and to help victims heal and rebuild their lives.

And for the entire anti-trafficking community, we’re continuing to provide training and technical assistance.  Over the last year, these efforts have included hosting three regional training forums focused on improving collaboration – as well as the development of a training curriculum to help state prosecutors and judges better understand human trafficking crimes. 

We’re also taking steps to forge and strengthen partnerships across international borders – which, as we’ve seen repeatedly, are essential. Over the last year, by working with Mexican law enforcement authorities, we dismantled sex trafficking networks operating on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border – bringing freedom to the victims, and securing landmark convictions and substantial sentences against the traffickers in these high-impact bilateral cases.

And while we can all be encouraged by our many recent achievements – in the fight against human trafficking, we have more to do. And far too many people remain in desperate need of our help.

That’s why our joint efforts – and our outstanding progress – must continue. I’m committed to this. And I look forward to discussing where we go from here – and how we can keep working in partnership to increase the impact of our critical efforts.

Updated August 18, 2015