Friday, July 1, 2011

The State Department’s Evaluation of U.S. Anti-Trafficking Efforts

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) released the 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report this week, and over the next week I’ll be posting a series of articles breaking down the U.S. government’s self-evaluation. This is the second time the annual report has included the United States in the ranking and evaluation of countries’ efforts to fight trafficking. I saw many positive elements in DOS’ evaluation of the U.S. government’s efforts, both in terms of good practices and honest acknowledgment of shortcomings. For instance, the report acknowledges:

  • the United States is a source, transit and destination country for many kinds of trafficking
  • certain employment-based visa programs have problems that traffickers have taken advantage of
  • there is a need for training of Department of Labor (DOL), Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and immigration officers

The report also highlights the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) involvement with local anti-trafficking task forces, while conceding the existence of disparities in state and local anti-trafficking efforts. DOS further notes an increase in the number of T visas granted, and in the number of Health and Human Services (HHS) certifications, both of which allow trafficking victims to receive refugee benefits. Every positive I found, however, raised additional questions for me, and many of DOS’ statements seemed to obscure or ignore some of the U.S. government’s other shortcomings in its anti-trafficking efforts.

I’ve broken up my observations into thematic sections, of which the first – on T visas and HHS certification – will follow later today. Look for additional articles analyzing the report in the coming week, discussing the training of government officials, state and local trafficking efforts, and the abuse of visa programs.

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