Rule Of Law: The Scourge Of Human Trafficking

Jessica Medeiros-Garrison President, Rule of Law Defense Fund
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Human trafficking is a scourge. It is not limited to third world countries or a place in history. It is happening now, around the worldwide, including here in the United States. It cuts across race, gender, religion, and socioeconomic status. It not only violates the basic precepts of the rule of law, it is anathema to the dignity of the human person and freedom in a civil society. According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, there are 27 million people enslaved globally — human trafficking is the 2nd largest criminal industry worldwide.

Human Trafficking facts:

  • It is not a choice. A person cannot consent to become enslaved. Victims want to escape, but cannot.
  • It is not smuggling. Smuggling is transportation; trafficking is exploitation.
  • It does not require that a victim be moved over state or international borders.
  • Approximately 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the U.S. every year.
  • It is a $32 billion global industry.

Children are especially vulnerable:

  • 40 percent of human trafficking cases involve the sexual exploitation of a child.
  • Between 100,000 and 300,000 children are at risk for sexual exploitation in the U.S. with an average age of 11 to 14 years old.
  • It is estimated that 76 percent of transactions for sex with underage girls start on the Internet.

In the U.S., federally funded human trafficking task forces opened 2,515 suspected incidents of human trafficking for investigation between January 2008 and June 2010 and most suspected incidents of human trafficking were classified as sex trafficking (82 percent). According to the FBI, these people “are trapped in lives of misery — often beaten, starved, and forced to work as prostitutes or to take grueling jobs as migrant, domestic, restaurant, or factory workers with little or no pay.”

This problem has no simple solution – it requires an immense undertaking of law enforcement with cooperation at the local, state, federal, and international levels. As Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes recently noted, “We can no longer fight this fight without an interconnected effort with legislators and law enforcement officials, both nationally and internationally.”

The Victims of Traffic and Violence Protection Act was the first federal law dedicated to the problem of human trafficking on both national and international levels – it was reauthorized last year. The Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice are the lead federal agencies responsible for tackling human trafficking nationally. However, cooperative federalism is paramount in circumstances surrounding issues of such importance. The federal government must work with the states to create a network that will ensnare criminals attempting to perpetrate such vile acts.

Attorneys General across the country are at the forefront of this process at the state level. Just last week, in an attempt to enhance their cooperation with the federal government, 53 AGs sent a letter to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the fight against human trafficking. In particular, they urged the Committee to pass the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation Act (SAVE Act), which is designed to protect children from being trafficked on the Internet.

Attorney General Bill Schuette of Michigan is working closely with his colleagues across the country to ensure law enforcement can fully understand the scope of human trafficking, prosecute traffickers, assist human trafficking victims, and raise public awareness.

Attorney General Pam Bondi of Florida is dedicated to making Florida a zero-tolerance state for human trafficking. She has said, “Human trafficking robs people of their dignity and deprives them of their most basic human rights.”

Attorney General Sam Olens of Georgia joined forces with legislators during his first legislative session as Attorney General to advocate for a stronger human trafficking law in Georgia — the law was passed.  “As Attorney General, I have made fighting child sex trafficking a top priority,” said Attorney General Olens. “I was proud to work with the Georgia General Assembly to strengthen Georgia’s sex trafficking law so that the punishment fits the crime. Our law is now a national model.” And just this week, Olens announced that his office will be hiring a new sex trafficking prosecutor to continue to battle the growing problem of child exploitation.

A number of states, including Florida, South Carolina and Texas, have implemented action plans and/or task forces to combat the human trafficking problem.

While the Attorneys General across the country are stepping up to combat human trafficking, it will take cooperation at all levels, including the help from the community at large. You can learn more through the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.