Trump can leave his mark by decimating human trafficking
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Human trafficking presents President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpLincoln Project ad dubs Jared Kushner the 'Secretary of Failure' Pence: Chief Justice Roberts 'has been a disappointment to conservatives' Twitter bans Trump campaign until it deletes tweet with COVID-19 misinformation MORE with an opportunity to show what he can accomplish when he is not hampered by political partisanship. It is one of the least partisan issues he will face as president, and it is a major problem. There were fewer than 10,000 worldwide convictions of human traffickers in 2016, and the number of victims remains in the tens of millions. 

Former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaHearing for Twitter hack suspect Zoom-bombed by porn, rap music Read: Sally Yates testimony Michelle Obama says she is managing 'low-grade depression' MORE said, “Our fight against human trafficking is one of the great human rights causes of our time.” 

Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump gave a speech at the launch ceremony for the 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report, which highlights the successes and the remaining challenges. She pointed out that trafficking often is a secret crime. It can be a great challenge just to identify the victims.

“Most tragically, human trafficking preys on the most vulnerable, young children, boys and girls, separating them from their families, often to be exploited, forced into prostitution or sex slavery,” she said. 

Ending human trafficking, she continued, "is a major foreign policy priority for the Trump administration."

Palermo Protocol

The preamble to the Palermo Protocol, which supplements the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, declares that: 

"[E]ffective action to prevent and combat trafficking in persons, especially women and children, requires a comprehensive international approach in the countries of origin, transit and destination that includes measures to prevent such trafficking, to punish the traffickers and to protect the victims of such trafficking…"

The obligations of this protocol are the focus of the report. 

Online sexual exploitation of children 

New technologies have facilitated online sexual exploitation of children. Experts estimate that tens of thousands of children are sexually exploited online, and the practice appears to be growing. The victims range in age from very young children to adolescents, and they come from all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.  

Trafficking Victims Protection Act 

The United States has played a leading role in international effort to combat human trafficking, particularly through the enactment of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 and its subsequent amendments and reauthorizations.

The TVPA provides minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and incentives to encourage countries around the world to meet them:

  1. Prohibit and punish severe forms of human trafficking;
  2. For knowing commission of sex trafficking involving force, fraud, coercion, or in which the victim of sex trafficking is a child, or of trafficking which includes rape or kidnapping or which causes a death, prescribe punishment commensurate with that for grave crimes;
  3. For the knowing commission of a severe form of trafficking, prescribe punishment that is sufficiently stringent to deter and that adequately reflects the heinous nature of the offense; and
  4. Make serious and sustained efforts to eliminate severe forms of human trafficking. 

The United States can withhold non-humanitarian, non-trade-related foreign assistance to governments that are not complying with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance.

U.S. trafficking profile 

The United States has demonstrated serious and sustained efforts to stop human trafficking by investigating and prosecuting both sex and labor trafficking; providing services to a greater number of trafficking victims and increasing overall funding levels for such services.

Nevertheless, the United States still is a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children — citizens and foreign nationals — who are trafficking victims.

The United States was one of the top three countries of origin of federally-identified victims in fiscal year 2016. The others were Mexico and the Philippines.

The trafficking victims in the United States include children in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems; runaway and homeless youth; unaccompanied children; and persons with disabilities.

Recommendations for the United States  

The United States has ample room for improvement For instance, it can:

  • Increase its prosecutions of forced labor trafficking cases;
  • Encourage state, local, and tribal authorities not to criminalize trafficking victims;
  • Incorporate trafficking survivor input when making policy decisions and establishing programs; 
  • Improve the methods for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations;
  • Enforce federal acquisition regulations aimed at preventing trafficking in federal contracts; and 
  • Support legislation to allow victims to vacate federal convictions that were a direct result of being subjected to trafficking. 

The achievement of substantial success in reducing human trafficking could become one of the great legacies of the Trump presidency. 

Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an executive branch immigration law expert for three years; he subsequently served as an immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for 20 years.

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