Human Rights First Welcome Introduction of Human Trafficking Accountability Act
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today welcomed the introduction of the Human Trafficking Accountability Act, introduced by Representatives Joyce Beatty (D-OH) and Ann Wagner (R-MO), that would strengthen the U.S. government’s approach to combating trafficking by designating a human trafficking prosecutor in every judicial district across the United States.
“Law enforcement and prosecutors simply don’t have what they need to investigate and pursue cases of human trafficking. This bill could change that by equipping each judicial district to combat this despicable crime,” said Human Rights First’s Annick Febrey. “Representatives Beatty and Wagner are leading the fight against modern day slavery by pressing for legislation that gives U.S. Attorney’s Offices the tools they need to hold human traffickers accountable and bring justice to victims. Congress needs to support them by passing this bill.”
The bill would designate a trafficking prosecutor in U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country, called a “Human Trafficking Justice Coordinator,” who would be responsible for ensuring increased exploration of all potential cases of human trafficking and would improve the ability of the U.S. Attorney’s Offices to bring traffickers to justice in more complex cases. The designated prosecutors would improve expertise nationwide on how to successfully apply anti-trafficking statutes to gain convictions, as well as cultivate partnerships between government officials at all levels and service providers that are key to rooting out and prosecuting cases of trafficking. These prosecutors also would be responsible for collecting restitution for victims, which though mandatory now, victims rarely receive what they are owed.
Additionally, the bill would appoint a senior official at the Department of Justice who would be responsible for coordinating these designated prosecutors across the country, ensuring adequate training is available and that best practices are shared across jurisdictions.
Human Rights First notes that holding traffickers accountable can be challenging as trafficking cases can be difficult to identify, investigate and prosecute and therefore only a small fraction of reported cases are prosecuted. In 2015, the National Human Trafficking Hotline received 24,757 communications, while only 297 convictions were secured in the United States. More complex human trafficking cases—such as labor trafficking—are especially difficult to identify and can necessitate more interagency coordination requiring additional time and resources. Labor trafficking cases represented only two percent of human trafficking convictions in the United States in 2015, while service providers reported that 48 percent of their clients were labor trafficking victims.
“If human trafficking is going to be eradicated, we’ll need to work together. When agencies across all levels of government join efforts, traffickers end up behind bars,” added Febrey. “If Congress passes this bill, designated prosecutors will be able to coordinate those efforts, ensuring the most effective methods based on a victim centered approach are being used to investigate and prosecute criminals, while also helping those that have fallen victim to their crimes.”