FNUSA Recommendations Highlighted in the 2024 Trafficking in Persons Report

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By Emma Ecker

On June 24, 2024, the US Department of State (DOS) released its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report which evaluates the efforts of 188 countries to meet a set of minimum standards to address human trafficking. The standards analyze each country’s efforts to prevent human trafficking, protect survivors, and prosecute traffickers. Each year, FNUSA submits extensive comments to inform the evaluation of the United States’ successes and failures in addressing human trafficking. 

In our 2024 comments, we highlighted significant and successful policy changes made in 2023 that provided survivors with more legal protections, like the new Deferred Action for Labor Enforcement guidance. We also noted deficiencies in the US response, like the continued criminalization of victims, barriers to accessing legal remedies, and inadequate victim services across the country. We were proud to read that DOS included these recommendations in its report once again. In addition, DOS highlighted two FNUSA priorities: improving access to Continued Presence for survivors and creating a safe, humane immigration system that does not make people vulnerable to trafficking.

Continued Presence

For survivors who are trafficked in the US but are not US citizens, a temporary form of immigration relief called Continued Presence is available but rarely requested by law enforcement. FNUSA has long recommended the US government improve access to Continued Presence to ensure survivors are able to safely work and access victim services while they assist law enforcement with an investigation or prosecution. We were pleased to see this recommendation included in the 2024 TIP Report. 

Survivors deserve to access all forms of relief and legal protections available to them, and law enforcement and prosecutors should not put survivors at risk of re-exploitation by refusing to request Continued Presence. Foreign national survivors who are not offered protections are afraid to seek help and remain in trafficking situations longer. We need both continued training and guidance from the Department of Homeland Security and changes to US law to expand access to Continued Presence.

Safe Asylum and Immigration Policies

As an anti-human trafficking organization that follows a human-rights-based approach, FNUSA has always advocated for safe asylum and immigration policies, because we know that harmful policies make people vulnerable to trafficking. We were grateful to see DOS highlight our concerns about recent asylum rules that force refugees to wait in dangerous conditions in Mexico, restrict thorough consideration of asylum claims, and result in people being deported to dangerous conditions. These types of policies only enable trafficking. 

Instead, we need a safe asylum system that prevents trafficking by providing full access to an asylum claim, safety in the US while awaiting an asylum decision, and legal representation to protect asylum seekers during the process. Attacks on safe immigration pathways do nothing to prevent human trafficking and make people less safe. We encourage the US government to improve our immigration system by creating humane paths to asylum and to pursue real prevention strategies that make everyone safer.

We are encouraged by many of the improvements in the US in 2023 and hope that the US government addresses the issues outlined in our recommendations. It remains clear that the US has a long way to go to actually prevent and address human trafficking. Significant strides need to be made in confronting systemic inequalities that make people vulnerable, improving social services, and making space for survivors to lead the work. This requires the entire US government, including legislators, to commit to these improvements in order to make considerable progress toward addressing human trafficking.

Administrative advocacy with federal agencies is a key component of FNUSA’s policy work. We work to change policies from federal law to agency guidance, to ensure survivors are protected at all policy levels. Our annual comments to DOS on the state of the US anti-trafficking response are a crucial part of this work. By summarizing the widespread issues and successes within the US, we can consistently inform better policy decisions.