Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000
In October 2000, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) (Public Law 106-386) was enacted. Prior to that, no comprehensive Federal law existed to protect victims of trafficking or to prosecute their traffickers. Human trafficking is increasingly committed by organized, sophisticated criminal groups, and is the fastest growing source of profits for organized criminal enterprise worldwide. Profits from the trafficking industry contribute to the expansion of organized crime in the U.S. and worldwide.
- Prevent human trafficking overseas
- Protect victims and help them rebuild their lives in the US with Federal and State support.
- Prosecute traffickers of persons under stiff Federal penalties.
Prevention, Protection and Prosecution
The law is comprehensive in addressing the various ways of combating trafficking, including prevention, protection and prosecution. The prevention measures include the authorization of educational and public awareness programs. Protection and assistance for victims of trafficking under the law include making housing, educational, health care, job training and other Federally-funded social service programs available to assist victims in rebuilding their lives. The law also established the T visa, which allows victims of trafficking to become temporary residents of the US. The TVPA authorizes up to 5,000 victims of trafficking each year to receive permanent resident status after three years from issuance of their temporary residency visas. The T visa signifies a shift in the immigration law policy, which previously resulted in many victims being deported as illegal aliens. The law also makes victims of trafficking eligible for the Witness Protection Program.
The law makes victims of trafficking eligible for benefits and services under Federal or state programs once they become certified by the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Adult trafficking victims must be certified as a pre-condition for their eligibility for benefits and services. Once certified, they will be eligible to apply for benefits and services under the Federal or state funded programs, to the same extent as refugees including refugee cash, medical assistance and social services. Victims under the age of 18 do not need to be certified. DHHS issues these victims letters of eligibility so that providers know they are eligible for services and benefits.
Victims of human trafficking who are non-US citizens are eligible to receive benefits and services through the TVPA to the same extent as refugees. Victims who are US citizens do not need to be certified by DHHS to receive benefits; as US citizens, they are already eligible for many benefits.
The TVPA also created new law enforcement tools to strengthen the prosecution and punishment of traffickers, making human trafficking a Federal crime with severe penalties.
For example, if a trafficking crime results in death or if the crime includes kidnapping, an attempted kidnapping, aggravated sexual abuse, attempted aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, the trafficker could be sentenced to life in prison. Traffickers who exploit children (under the age of 14) using force, fraud or coercion, for the purpose of sex trafficking (a commercial sex act1) can be imprisoned for life. If the victim was a child between the age of 14 and 18 and the sex trafficking did not involve force, fraud, or coercion, the trafficker could receive up to 20 years in prison.
Moreover, the law addresses the subtle means of coercion used by traffickers to bind their victims in to servitude, including: psychological coercion, trickery, and the seizure of documents, activities which were difficult to prosecute under preexisting involuntary servitude statutes and case law.
Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2003
In 2003, the Bush Administration authorized more than $200 million to combat human trafficking through the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2003 (TVPRA). TVPRA renews the US government’s commitment to identify and assist victims exploited through labor and sex trafficking in the United States.
The TVPRA provides resources and initiatives to assist the 18,000-20,000 victims of human trafficking who are trafficked into the United States every year. It augments the legal tools which can be used against traffickers for actual and punitive damages, and by including sex trafficking and forced labor as offenses under the Racketeering influenced and Corrupt Organization statute.
It also encourages the nation’s 21,000 state and local law enforcement agencies to participate in the detection and investigation of human trafficking cases. The US Department of Health and Human Services has a significant role in implementing the law’s victim-centered, compassionate approach to finding and aiding the victims of modern-day slave trade.
As defined by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, the term ‘commercial sex act’ means any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person.
William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2008
On December 12, 2008 the House and Senate unanimously passed the “William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2008″ which reauthorizes the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.