U.S. works to fight modern-day slavery

The Anti-trafficking Coordination Team Initiative announced a new initiative to combat modern-day slavery in the United States

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The Anti-trafficking Coordination Team Initiative (ACT Team Initiative), a coordination between the U.S. departments of justice, homeland security and labor, on Monday announced a new initiative to combat modern-day slavery in the United States. The initiative was piloted in six cities nationwide that serve as major hubs for human trafficking.

Human trafficking occurs when force, fraud or coercion are used in recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining someone for any compelled service.

The U.S.-based Polaris Project says there is no official estimate of the total number of human trafficking victims in the country.
With 100,000 children estimated to be in the sex trade in the United States each year, the total number of human trafficking victims nationally is at least in the hundreds of thousands.

The government agencies banded together in 2011 to invest in the ACT Team Initiative. “Human traffickers prey on some of the most vulnerable members of our society to exploit them for labor, for sex, and for servitude of all kinds,” U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said last week. “Their crimes… have no place in this nation.”

In the first two years of the initiative, “the number of prosecutions and convictions for human trafficking crimes rose significantly across the country, but were dramatically more pronounced in the ACT Team pilot districts,” Lynch said. “There, we more than doubled the number of defendants charged and the number of cases filed.”

In the two years before the implementation of the ACT Team pilot districts, the six pilot cities had only successfully tackled a total of 16 human trafficking cases against 35 defendants. During the two years since implementation, they filed up to 35 cases against 75 defendants.

“These victories are a testament to the power of the interagency partnership, and they remind us of what we can achieve when we work together,” Lynch said.

The 2014 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, produced by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said: “Governments need to send a clear signal that human trafficking will not be tolerated, through Protocol-compliant legislation, proper enforcement, suitable sanctions for convicted traffickers and protection of victims.”

The report added: “The United States reports a share of federal convictions to prosecutions of about 70 per cent, which is the largest share in the region [North America].”

Along with prosecution, the government is working with victims of human trafficking to help them re-enter society.

“Our goal is to provide holistic services for victims of human trafficking… because survivors of this horrific, unspeakable experience need to have the opportunity to find meaningful work and to get on a pathway to normalcy,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said last week. “We have seen dramatic results and dramatic success,” he said of the ACT Team Initiative.

The Trafficking In Persons Report (TIP Report) for 2014 says the United States was one of the top countries where the government is identifying and aiding victims of human trafficking.

The report commended the United States for all 50 states, the District of Columbia and all U.S. territories having enacted anti-trafficking laws.

The TIP Report is the U.S. government’s principal diplomatic tool for monitoring foreign governments on human trafficking.

It is also the world’s most comprehensive resource of governmental anti-human trafficking efforts.

Although the United States has been ranking countries in the TIP Report since 2001, it did not begin ranking itself until 2010. Since then, the United States has received a tier one (the highest) ranking annually.

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