VIII. Current U.S. Efforts to Stop the Sale of Humans
The United States is among many countries that have taken legislative action against human trafficking. Because of its prominent status as a world power, the United States has also been the leader in forcing others to do the same. Every year since 2000, the U.S. Department of State has published the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, which details the extent of trafficking in the country as well as abroad. The report also contains a ranking system whereby the Department of State issues a passing or failing grade to other countries’ efforts to stop human trafficking. Using the U.S. law as the benchmark of excellence, the State Department conducts an investigation into every country around the globe that receives financial or military assistance from the United States. After its investigation, it ranks the countries into four categories or tiers: Tier 1 (the equivalent to a grade of A), Tier 2 (the grade of B), Tier 2 Watch List (the grade of C), and Tier 3 (the grade of D). Tier 1 countries, such as Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom, are praised for their excellent achievement in trying to eradicate human trafficking in their respective countries. Tier 2 countries such as Afghanistan, Mexico, and Turkey are also applauded for their efforts, but also told that a little more needs to be done to combat human trafficking. The Tier 2 Watch List countries are at the brink of failing in their efforts to end this problem. Argentina, China, Guatemala, and Tanzania are among several countries that are trying to squash human trafficking but are not taking significant action to do so. Tier 3 countries such as Iran, Cuba, and North Korea are completely failing to deal with this crime. Again, it is important to consider that the United States uses its own law as the gold standard and does not include itself in this ranking system.
The U.S. law against trafficking is not without criticism. There are some who contend that the law is not victim-centered but rather revictimizes those who have suffered through the ordeal of being sold and enslaved (Beeks & Amir, 2006). For instance, in order for victims to qualify for any governmental services (such as psychological, medical, and employment benefits), after being rescued by police, they must undergo a certification process in which they must petition the government for help. This petition requires victims to do the following:
- Write a personal narrative of their experience
- Prove that they would suffer extreme hardship if they were removed from the United States
- Comply with law enforcement investigation into the case
- Get the narrative certified by a law enforcement officer who must attest to the facts in the narrative
- Pay a processing fee (approximately $200) to the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services, together with fees for a picture ID (approximately $10–$20), fingerprints (approximately $50), and so on This is not an easy feat in light of the fact that most victims do not speak or write English, are apprehensive about police, and do not have an income to pay for such fees. This certification is meant to ensure that only “severe victims” of trafficking are given access to government aid. If and when they receive certification as a victim, they can also petition for a visa to stay in the United States. However, the U.S. government limits the number of visas it issues to trafficking victims each year to 5,000. From 2000–2006, the United States only issued 729 visas to victims of human trafficking.
Despite this disparagement, the United States has provided monetary assistance to foreign nations to try to tackle the push factors of human trafficking. Close to $1 billion has been provided to help other countries raise awareness of the dangers of human trafficking, as well as establish vocational and technical training for the most vulnerable and provide them with an education. Also, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (2006) indicates that 555 cases were investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office from 2001– 2005. This led to 78 criminal adjudications with a mean prison sentence of 70 months. Furthermore, the federal government has been providing more assistance to local, state, and federal authorities in the United States to better identify and help victims of human trafficking. It has also provided aid to NGOs to help them better assist trafficking victims.