Prosecutions of child sex trafficking dropped during Trump administration

The number of prosecutions for child sex trafficking has significantly declined during the Trump administration, after climbing steadily during the Obama years.

Prosecutions for child sex trafficking reached a peak of 273 and 277 in FY 2016 and FY 2017, respectively, but the number of cases dipped to 221 in FY 2018, and then continued to decline to less than 200 in FYs 2019 and 2020.

According to the case-by-case information from the Justice Department analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), data shows that during period Trump occupied the White House, the government prosecuted fewer child sex traffickers.

Criminal referrals to U.S. Attorney offices during that entire period are substantially larger than those federal prosecutors decide to file in court.

Comparing the last three presidential admin­istrations, not only were the number of prosecutions higher during the Obama years, but the proportion of criminal referrals for child sex trafficking on which charges were brought was also higher.

Case-by-case information from the Justice Department that was analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) shows that the Trump administration prosecuted far fewer child sex trafficking cases than the Obama administration.

During the Bush administration, 46 percent of criminal referrals were prosecuted.

During the Obama administration, that proportion increased to 49 percent.

During the Trump administration, prosecutors chose to file charges in 43 percent of cases—a notable decline from both the Obama and Bush years.

There is not yet data available to show if the Biden team is doing more about these crimes, but on January 25, 2022, the White House convened its first meeting of the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (PITF).  

This cabinet-level entity created by President Joe Biden, has primary responsibility for coordinating efforts across 20 federal agencies to combat the modern slave trade and implement the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking

Human trafficking disproportionately impacts persons of color, women and girls, LGBTQI+ individuals, migrants, and others from historically marginalized and underserved communities.

Some of the solutions that are being executed are briefly described below based on information obtained directly from the White House.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) established a task force to prevent human trafficking, which will focus on expanding access to services for survivors, preventing forced labor in health care supply chains, and building scientific understanding of the intersections between public health and human trafficking, among other initiatives.

The Senior Policy Operating Group, consisting of senior officials from across the U.S. government, established a working group in 2021 that will analyze the rights and protections granted to temporary employment-based visa holders and develop solutions for addressing gaps.

Last year, the Department of Commerce (DOC), in collaboration with the departments of State and Labor, launched a new coordination group to develop innovative approaches to combating forced labor in the seafood industry.

In December 2021, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) released its revised policy to counter trafficking in persons (C-TIP). USAID will use this policy to promote trauma-informed and survivor-centered approaches in C-TIP programming to empower survivors.

The Department of Defense published a guide to inform military-connected high school students about human trafficking.

DHS designated a senior accountable official to prevent human trafficking in DHS contracts and acquisitions.

The Department of Labor (DOL) will provide additional trauma- and survivor-informed awareness and referral training to investigators nationwide in order to combat forced labor and abusive labor practices.

The Department of Education will launch a series of webinars to inform constituents about recognizing, understanding, and preventing human trafficking in and around schools.

The Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force, chaired by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), will work to implement the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act by developing a strategy for supporting enforcement of Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930 to prohibit the importation of goods made by forced labor from the People’s Republic of China.

In December 2021, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced almost $87 million in funding to combat human trafficking, provide supportive services to trafficking victims throughout the United States, and conduct research into the nature and causes of labor and sex trafficking. This includes approximately $15 million to provide safe, stable housing and appropriate services to victims of human trafficking.

The Senior Policy Operating Group established a working group that will develop best practices in implementing screening forms and protocols for Federal officials who have the potential to encounter a human trafficking victim in the course of their regular duties.

The Department of State will launch a publicly available online training that will give anti-trafficking tips for how to more successfully engage with survivors and potential victims of trafficking while mitigating the risk of re-traumatization.

DOJ and HHS will launch a joint effort to develop evidence-based standards of care for trafficking victims to inform the provision of victim services across the country.

DHS will incorporate a victim-centered approach into all policies and programs involving victims of crime.

In 2021, DOJ launched Joint Task Force Alpha (JTFA), in partnership with DHS and other law enforcement agencies, to combat migrant smuggling and trafficking in persons from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico. The task force is working within the United States and with our foreign partners to dismantle criminal networks that engage in human trafficking and subject smuggled migrants to dangerous, abusive, and exploitive conditions.

Last year, DHS detained more shipments of goods (in value and number) made by forced labor than in any previous year, leading four separate international corporations to remediate forced labor conditions. DHS also initiated the first-ever criminal investigations to hold accountable companies and individuals who use forced labor to produce goods abroad.

In April 2021, the Department of the Interior announced the formation of a new Missing & Murdered Unit within the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services to provide leadership and direction for cross-departmental and interagency work to resolve “cold cases” involving missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives and to address underlying causes, including human trafficking.

In 2022, DOJ will release an intra-Departmental National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking to strengthen anti-trafficking efforts and enhance the it’s capacity to implement measures aimed at countering emerging labor trafficking threats, streamlining access to victim services, strengthening intelligence-driven targeting, and enhancing dissemination of specialized anti-trafficking expertise.

In 2022, DOJ’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) will launch a new National Law Enforcement Training and Technical Assistance Consortium and will work to ensure that it addresses the intersection of human trafficking with domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking with a focus on tribal grantees and potential grantees.

Over the next year, the Intelligence Community (IC) will work to improve sharing information on human trafficking with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement.

The Department of the Treasury has increased engagement with the financial industry on identifying human trafficking in the gaming industry, focusing on forced labor and stopping money laundering that enables human trafficking.

DOC will develop training and guidance for U.S. companies and private-sector stakeholders on the use of forced labor in supply chains, including offering best practices to identify and address possible violations.

The Office of Management and Budget will facilitate increased dialogue within the federal government, as well as with the contractor community and non-governmental organizations, to better align our efforts to prevent and address trafficking in Federal procurement.

As announced at the North American Leaders’ Summit in November 2021, the U.S. Government, led by the Department of State, will work with Canada and Mexico to restart the Trilateral Working Group on Trafficking in Persons and will promote legal pathways that encourage orderly, safe, and regular migration.

In 2022, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative will continue to develop a trade strategy for combating forced labor, including in global supply chains, which will be shaped by an inclusive process allowing for public participation with key stakeholders, such as labor organizations, civil society, survivors, and businesses.

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