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Press Release

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Announces Justice Department Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking; Southern District of California a National Leader in Human Trafficking Prosecutions

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of California

Director of Media Relations Kelly Thornton (619) 546-9726    

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – February 2, 2022

SAN DIEGO – U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland has released the Justice Department’s new National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking pursuant to the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act.

Rooted in the foundational pillars and priorities of the interagency National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, which President Biden released on Dec. 3, 2021, the Justice Department’s National Strategy is expansive in scope.  It aims to enhance the department’s capacity to prevent human trafficking; to prosecute human trafficking cases; and to support and protect human trafficking victims and survivors.

“Human trafficking is an insidious crime,” said Attorney General Garland. “Traffickers exploit and endanger some of the most vulnerable members of our society and cause their victims unimaginable harm. The Justice Department’s new National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking will bring the full force of the Department to this fight.”

The Southern District of California is proud to be a leader in the fight against human trafficking. Since the enactment of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act in 2000, the Southern District has prosecuted more defendants than any other district in the country -- as of January 2021, 262 defendants in 93 separate cases. The Southern District continues to be a national leader in all types of human trafficking prosecutions, ranging from child-sex trafficking to forced labor trafficking to sex trafficking of adults by force, fraud, or coercion.

Recognizing that, sadly, San Diego is a national hub for domestic minor sex trafficking, the U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecutes individuals who profit from the sexual exploitation of children to the fullest extent of the law, and routinely obtains significant custodial time for those defendants. Recent prosecutions underscore the office’s commitment to justice for victims of these sometimes unseen crimes, including labor trafficking charges against individuals from Imperial Valley Ministries (U.S. v. Gonzalez, et al., 19-CR-3255-BTM), who coerced dozens of mostly homeless individuals to surrender welfare benefits and compelled them to panhandle up to nine hours a day, six days a week, for the financial benefit of church leaders, and charges against the operators of the website “Girls Do Porn,” (U.S. v. Pratt, et al., 19-CR-4488-JLS), who participated in a nationwide scheme that duped and coerced women into making pornography.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office also routinely works with its state and local partners to provide assistance and justice for survivors and participates in trainings that assist the community in recognizing and stopping human trafficking,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “We are grateful to our fantastic Human Trafficking Task Force, and our federal, state, and local partners for sharing this challenging work with us. I am proud of our office’s commitment to holding traffickers accountable, and attempting to provide a better future for victims, and I am proud that we continue to be a leader in this fight.”

Among other things, the Justice Department’s multi-year strategy to combat all forms of human trafficking will:

•           Strengthen engagement, coordination and joint efforts to combat human trafficking by prosecutors in all 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and by federal law enforcement agents nationwide.

•           Establish federally-funded, locally-led anti-human trafficking task forces that support sustained state law enforcement leadership and comprehensive victim assistance.

•           Step up departmental efforts to end forced labor by increasing attention, resources and coordination in labor trafficking investigations and prosecutions.

•           Enhance initiatives to reduce vulnerability of American Indians and Alaska Natives to violent crime, including human trafficking, and to locate missing children.

•           Develop and implement new victim screening protocols to identify potential human trafficking victims during law enforcement operations and encourage victims to share important information.

•           Increase capacity to provide victim-centered assistance to trafficking survivors, including by supporting efforts to deliver financial restoration to victims.

•           Expand dissemination of federal human trafficking training, guidance and expertise.

•           Advance innovative demand-reduction strategies.

The department’s strategy will be implemented under the direction of the National Human Trafficking Coordinator designated by the Attorney General in accordance with the Abolish Human Trafficking Act of 2017.

If you believe that you or someone you know may be a victim of human trafficking, please contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at   1-888-373-7888, or Text 233733.

To read the National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking click here.

Updated February 2, 2022

Human Trafficking
Press Release Number: CAS22-0202-Trafficking