This week, the U.S. Department of State released the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, a comprehensive analysis of the United States’ fight against human trafficking, and a global ranking of each country’s efforts to comply with the minimum standards set by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). Secretary Hillary Clinton presented the report on Juneteenth, the day Union soldiers enforced the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas in 1865, and likened trafficking to historical slavery.
While the TIP Report estimates human trafficking globally at 27 million, it does not include an estimate of the number of trafficking victims in the U.S. The top countries of origin for foreign trafficking victims in the U.S. for 2011 are Mexico, the Philippines, Thailand, Guatemala, Honduras, and India.
Two critical aspects to the United States’ fight against trafficking and protection of survivors are granting of immigration relief (whether through “Continued Presence” or T-visas or U-visas). According to the TIP Report, grants of immigration relief remain very low. For example, although the number of T-visas has increased from last year, it is still only around one-tenth (557 grants in 2011) of those the government is authorized to grant (5,000). The report recommends training law enforcement to grant Continued Presence and temporary visas, as well as training Department of Labor investigators to detect trafficking.
“Continued Presence and temporary visas are among our best tools in assisting trafficking survivors, and the consistently low numbers show that we are not making full use of them in our fight against trafficking,” said Ivy O. Suriyopas of the Asian American Legal Defense Fund’s (AALDEF) Anti-Trafficking Initiative.
In addition, both Secretary Clinton in her presentation and the TIP Report acknowledged the importance of legal services and shelters for trafficking victims, for which funding is insufficient.
“Despite the widespread consensus that shelters are crucial to protecting trafficking survivors, our clients are constantly struggling to find shelters, even in a city like New York,” said Suriyopas. “We must continue to fight for increased funding as a solution to this ongoing crisis.”