President Barack Obama has proclaimed January to be Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Human trafficking is a crime and a human rights abuse involving commercial sexual exploitation of a person (child or adult) or the use of force, coercion or fraud to compel someone into labor servitude or commercial sexual exploitation. Believe it or not, thousands of men, women, and children are trafficked in the United States every year. In fact, cases of human trafficking have been reported in all 50 states. Human trafficking is relevant to U.S. Citizens, legal residents and foreigners. Sadly, some of the highest numbers within the realms of human trafficking have been seen in cases dealing with children. Studies show that the children who are found to be victims of human trafficking are those who are not living with direct family members or immigrant children. It is also believed that traffickers seek kids as young as the age of 12, since they are the most vulnerable and gullible.
In a time where these issues are a reality in the United States, it is important that we all try to -at the very least- raise awareness of this issue and the number of ways we can help.
What YOU can do:
Recognize a victim of human trafficking and help them by properly reporting their case.
- Has unexplained absences from school for a period of time, and is therefore a truant
- Demonstrates an inability to attend school on a regular basis
- Chronically runs away from home
- Makes references to frequent travel to other cities
- Exhibits bruises or other physical trauma, withdrawn behavior, depression, or fear
- Lacks control over her or his schedule or identification documents
- Is hungry-malnourished or inappropriately dressed (based on weather conditions or surroundings)
- Shows signs of drug addiction
Additional signs that may indicate sex-related trafficking include:
- Demonstrates a sudden change in attire, behavior, or material possessions (e.g., has expensive items)
- Makes references to sexual situations that are beyond age-specific norms
- Has a “boyfriend” who is noticeably older (10+ years)
- Makes references to terminology of the commercial sex industry that are beyond age specific norms; engages in promiscuous behavior and may be labeled “fast” by peers
Make the call:
To report suspicious activity to law enforcement: 866-347-2423
To reach a non-governmental organization, National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline: 888-3737-888
What the U.S. is Doing:
Since 2010, the Department of Homeland Security has been launching the “Blue Campaign”- a program designed to coordinate and enhance anti-human trafficking efforts. The following are some of the resources that the Blue Campaign has strived to push forward in an effort to end these human trafficking issues:
Several DHS offices have produced informational materials to promote public awareness about human trafficking and the resources available to potential victims:
- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) produced wallet-sized human trafficking indicator cards—available in 17 languages—to highlight differences between smuggling and trafficking and to identify key signals for recognizing a trafficking victim.
- To complement the indicator cards, ICE produced an informational pamphlet that focuses on ICE’s law enforcement role and its victim-centered approach to combating human trafficking. The pamphlet also highlights recent investigative successes.
- ICE created a brochure that provides a concise, comprehensive overview of Continued Presence—a temporary immigration status provided by law enforcement to victims of human trafficking—including eligibility and application guidelines.
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) developed a pamphlet about immigration options for victims of human trafficking, domestic violence, and other crimes. It is geared towards emergency responders, law enforcement officers, and healthcare professionals nationwide who may be in a position to identify and aid victims of trafficking. The pamphlet is currently available in English, Spanish and Chinese.
- USCIS continues to issue public guidance and memoranda outlining the provisions and rights of trafficking victims under the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA 2008).
Public Awareness Campaign
- A new DHS public service announcement featuring Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher designed to raise awareness about the dangers and signs of human trafficking is airing on CNN Airport Network at airports across the country. The announcement includes information about how to report suspected human trafficking to authorities.
- Hidden In Plain Sight’s 2010 campaign featured newspaper advertisements in Chinese, English, Korean, Spanish, and Thai. The campaign was printed in 50 newspapers across the United States whose total readership was an estimated 5 million people.
- No Te Engañes (Don’t Be Fooled) ran in Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico. The awareness campaign, which includes television, radio, and print media, informs potential migrants of the dangers of human trafficking and how to avoid becoming a victim. In 2011, No Te Engañes will debut in the United States and continue in Central America.
The Department created several online resources to engage the public, including:
- A centralized web portal—www.dhs.gov/humantrafficking—for all DHS resources related to combating human trafficking.
- An e-mail resource—ICEHumanTrafficking.HelpDesk@dhs.gov—for law enforcement, NGOs, and service providers to contact human trafficking law enforcement experts with questions, comments, or concerns.
- An e-mail resource—BlueCampaign@dhs.gov—to request materials or additional information about the Blue Campaign and to sign up for updates and invitations to stakeholder meetings.
Training for Law Enforcement and DHS Personnel
- Recognizing that law enforcement officers are often first to encounter potential victims of human trafficking, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), in consultation with other DHS components, developed a free interactive computer-based training system for federal, state and local law enforcement officers. The training has been certified by Peace Officers Standards and Training in select states and has the potential to reach 200,000 law enforcement officers annually. For law enforcement access to the training, please visit http://www.fletc.gov/training/programs/human-trafficking-training-program.
- The Department is currently developing computer-based training for DHS personnel who might encounter human trafficking within their scope of work, with the goal of making the training available in 2011. The program will train employees in their anti-trafficking roles and responsibilities, as well as familiarize them with the roles and responsibilities of their colleagues throughout DHS.
- The Department is also currently developing computer-based training for all DHS personnel on the confidentiality provisions afforded to victims of trafficking, domestic violence and other crimes. The training will help ensure that the confidentiality of victims is protected and is a priority of DHS.
Victim Assistance Efforts
- In fiscal year 2010, USCIS reached the statutory annual cap of 10,000 principal U visas approved for victims of domestic violence and other crimes, including human trafficking. USCIS also granted T nonimmigrant status to 796 victims of human trafficking and their families – the highest number granted since the creation of the T visa program in 2002.
- USCIS implemented greater victim confidentiality protections for victims with pending or approved applications for immigration relief. The Central Index System database now has a specific code that will alert DHS personnel when an individual is covered by the confidentiality provisions associated with VAWA self-petitions or T or U nonimmigrant status petitions.
- Eighteen of ICE’s 26 Special Agent in Charge offices nationwide have hired full-time Victim Specialists—complementing the work of ICE’s 250 collateral duty Victim Assistance Coordinators and one full-time Child Forensic Interview Specialist.
- ICE has designated 39 human trafficking experts—at least one in every ICE Special Agent in Charge office. These individuals are specially trained to handle human trafficking leads, address urgent victim needs appropriately, and serve as designated points of contact for local officers and leads generated through the HSI-Tip Line.
- CBP produced informational ‘tear cards,’ ‘shoe cards,’ and posters for potential victims of human trafficking. These materials connect victims to crisis support and sustained social services.
- CBP officers and agents distribute the tear cards to select individuals at ports of entry and Border Patrol stations.
- Posters containing information about human trafficking are displayed at ports of entry and in the processing areas of Border Patrol stations.
- Discreet shoe cards containing the 24-hour hotline to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center are distributed via victim service providers and faith-based organizations.
- Tear cards are available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, French, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, and Indonesian. Shoe cards are currently available in English, Spanish and Korean.
Interagency, International & Private Sector Partnerships and Collaboration
- DHS’ Private Sector Office has developed a virtual toolkit of the Department’s anti-human trafficking resources for distribution to businesses across the nation. The toolkit has been distributed to thousands of employers, including those in the lodging, transportation, entertainment, agricultural, manufacturing, and construction industries.
- DHS continues to expand engagement with its international partners via the Blue Campaign to better combat human trafficking on a global scale—actively engaging with the European Union, Canada, and the International Organization for Migration and continuing to welcome new opportunities for bilateral and multilateral collaboration.
- As part of its international anti-trafficking efforts, DHS addressed specific needs of Member States of the Regional Conference of Migration (RCM)—a multilateral regional forum working on international migration and human rights issues. DHS solicited input from the RCM Member States through an online survey to determine RCM training requirements, which were incorporated into ICE’s regional America’s training on Human Trafficking, Forced Child Labor, and Child Sex Tourism in 2010.
- The Office of Policy expanded outreach to foreign government partners through collaboration with foreign embassy staff located in the United States. As a result of such outreach, DHS participated in an interagency workshop on human trafficking at the Ecuadorian Embassy. Staff from Ecuadorian consulates from across the United States attended the workshop, at which DHS, the Department of State, and Department of Health and Human Services shared best practices and provided information on federal initiatives to combat human trafficking, including victim services and resources.
- DHS continues to meet with its federal partners, non-governmental and community organizations, and private sector partners to solicit stakeholder feedback on the Department’s anti-trafficking programs and to help shape future initiatives. In 2010, the Blue Campaign hosted two stakeholder meetings with over 100 participants from non-governmental, state, local and private sector organizations. The stakeholder meetings facilitated targeted outreach efforts, including engagement with emergency management and medical professionals.
If you would like additional, up to date information about what else is being done and ways you can help, please visit www.dhs.gov