Press Release

AALDEF Proposes Amendments to Anti-Trafficking Law



Through its Anti-Trafficking Initiative, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) has endorsed an appeal to the Senate designed to combat human trafficking, including a request to amend and reauthorize the landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA). AALDEF is also supporting a call on the Office of Management and Budget to request funds for trafficking victims already authorized by the federal statute.

As an organizational member of the Freedom Network, AALDEF proposed a list of practical amendments to the TVPA that are intended to rectify problems and better serve victims without requiring Congress to authorize increased funding.

“Our involvement in the anti-trafficking legislative process is essential because of our direct experience working with victims and survivors,” said Ivy Suriyopas, the staff attorney for AALDEF’s Anti-Trafficking Initiative, which provides free legal representation to trafficked women and youth workers.

“We assist survivors on everything from immigration needs to navigating the criminal justice system to pursuing their own civil suits against their traffickers,” Suriyopas said. “Every year we develop greater levels of expertise with the many legal hurdles they face. This gives us valuable insight into how exactly we can make anti-trafficking laws more effective.”

Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Scott Brown (R-MA), and John Kerry (D-MA) introduced S. 1301, the Trafficking Victims Protection and Reauthorization Act of 2011, on June 30, 2011. View the bill text here.

Problems in the Current Anti-Trafficking Laws – and Our Solutions

Here are the major weaknesses AALDEF and The Freedom Network have observed in the current anti-trafficking laws, and what we can do about them:

  • Problem: Children who are trafficked for labor are often sexually abused and held for long periods of time, yet are not always identified as trafficking victims.
  • Solution: Minors who have been trafficked for labor should be afforded the same range of services as minors who are trafficked for sex.
  • Problem: Foreign trafficking victims are afraid to identify themselves and their traffickers out of fear of immigration law penalties.
  • Solution: We should prevent victims from being detained and, if detained, require their immediate release once they are identified as a victim of trafficking.
  • Problem: Survivors who have left the United States after being trafficked often cannot return to prosecute.
  • Solution: We should at minimum grant temporary visas to victims who had to leave the United States because of threats to themselves or immediate family members.
  • Problem: Some victims cannot assist in the prosecution if immediate family members who are responsible for them, or for whom they are responsible, are not allowed to remain in the United States.
  • Solution: We should grant immigration protection to a broader age range of immediate family members of victims.
  • Problem: “Continued Presence” – which foreign victims need to stay in the United States – requires law enforcement to certify that the person “is” a trafficking victim, which law enforcement is naturally hesitant to do at an early stage.
  • Solution: “Continued Presence” should require certification that the person “may be” a trafficking victim.
  • Problem: Foreign labor recruiters entice workers to come to the United States with false promises, and the visa process only abets their ability to keep exploiting them.
  • Solution: No more TVPRA-directed research is needed to prove foreign labor recruiting is often at the root of the problem. It is now time to do something about it.
  • Problem: Funds for anti-trafficking are extremely limited.
  • Solution: We should remove language that diverts funds to combating adult prostitution (the responsibility of local law enforcement) and educating purchasers of commercial sex acts (should be self-financing).

Release of Funds to Fight Trafficking

The TVPA has already authorized the use of funds for the following purposes:

  • Providing shelter for trafficking victims
  • Educating at-risk populations, such as AIDs orphans and women and young children in post-conflict and post-disaster areas, on alternate livelihoods
  • Assisting in tracking foreign national victims of human trafficking
  • Integrating law enforcement and trafficking victim services

Although these funds have been authorized, various federal agencies have yet to secure them. “These programs are entitled to the funds by statute,” said Suriyopas. To that end, AALDEF has signed on to a letter to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget asking that these anti-trafficking funds be requested for the 2013 budget.

For further information, contact:
Ujala Sehgal
Communications Coordinator
212-966-5932 ex. 217

Image: Barb.Howe/Flickr