Trump administration officials are pushing back on a recent Axios report that claims their efforts to combat human trafficking have slowed down over the past couple of years.
“Efforts to combat human trafficking slow under Trump,” Axios wrote last week, pointing to State Department data that shows fewer investigations and prosecutions of human traffickers. Axios also noted to the administration’s credit, however, that trafficking convictions are on the rise, with the Department of Justice (DOJ) convicting a record 526 defendants in fiscal year 2018.
But senior administration officials tell the Daily Caller that the report still doesn’t paint a full picture of everything the administration has been doing to serve victims of trafficking. (RELATED: Anti-Sex Trafficking Activist Says ‘No Question’ Trump Has Done More Than Previous Presidents On The Issue)
“Human trafficking is a disgraceful and unacceptable crime,” one official said. “The Department of Justice continues to prioritize fighting violent crime, including human trafficking, by investigating and vigorously prosecuting human traffickers to bring justice to victims.”
The official pointed to a number of factors that contributed to the lower number of prosecutions:
- Cases typically take 2-3 years to prosecute, so longer (and likely more significant) cases would not be counted as “new” prosecutions when they are carried over year to year
- Cases are not considered “new” when more defendants are added, a common theme when the feds are taking down organized trafficking operations
- State statutes on human trafficking have gotten stronger over the past several years, meaning more cases are being prosecuted at the state level
The DOJ has also been responsible for prosecuting some of the largest human trafficking cases under the Trump administration:
- Thirty-six defendants convicted in relation to an international sex trafficking organization that exploited hundreds of Thai women
- Five defendants sentenced to 15-25 years for running an international sex trafficking org out of Mexico – victims of the “Rendon-Reyes Trafficking Organization” were as young as age 14
The administration has also managed to increase its prosecution efforts against child traffickers. In 2016, 857 defendants where charged under the federal statutes used to prosecute to the prostitution of children. In 2017, that number rose to 987, and fell just slightly to 952 in 2018.
“The fight against human trafficking is one of the top priorities of the Department of Justice and the entire Trump Administration,” another senior administration official asserted to the Caller. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to eradicating these degrading forms of exploitation from our society targeting the most vulnerable among us.”