The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 gave hope for the first time in federal law to persons who are coerced into the sex trades or manual labor as virtual slaves. Prior to that time, those who were caught in prostitution, even children, were considered the criminals, while the pimps and johns had virtually no consequences.
TVPA is working on several levels for prevention, protection and prosecution of sex crimes. The goals include:
- Prevent human trafficking overseas
- Protect victims and help them rebuild their lives in the U.S. with Federal and state support
- Prosecute traffickers of persons under stiff Federal penalties
- 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 U.S.
- The TVPA authorizes up to 5,000 victims of trafficking each year to receive permanent residence 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 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
- 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 any 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. HHS issues these victims letters of eligibility so that providers know they are eligible for services and benefits.
- Victims of human trafficking who are non-U.S. citizens are eligible to receive benefits and services through the TVPA to the same extent as refugees.
- Victims who are U.S. citizens do not need to be certified by HHS to receive benefits; as U.S. citizens, they are already eligible for many benefits.
Human trafficking became a federal crime with severe penalties, which increase if the incidents include:
- aggravated sexual abuse
- death of a victim,
- or victims are under 14 and force, fraud or coercion was used to force the child into sexual acts.The trafficker may be subject to life imprisonment for any of these scenarios. For sex trafficking victims aged 14-18 when no force, fraud or coercion came into play, the pimp would still receive 20 years in prison.
Although the TVPA mainly addresses internationals trafficked into the United States, recent revisions have included domestic minors in the protection clauses without the need to show force or coercion for commercial sex acts. Partly as a result of this United States law, many of the states have enacted harsher penalties for perpetrators of sex trafficking, and especially prostitution of minors. In the spring of 2010, for example, Arizona enacted A.R.S. 13-3212 which classifies prostitution of minors as a Class 2 felony.
Progress is definitely being made to protect our children, but there is still a long way to go to create a culture of honoring women and children and people in general.
If you know of someone who may be a victim of sex trafficking, contact The National Human Trafficking Resource Center 1.888.3737.888.
Learn more about human trafficking at the Health and Human Services website.