How to end human trafficking

How to end human trafficking
© Getty Images

The administration, thanks in part to the passion of Ivanka TrumpIvana (Ivanka) Marie TrumpTrump: food chain 'almost working perfectly again' Lilly Wachowski claps back at Ivanka Trump and Elon Musk's 'red pill' exchange Trump says he gave officials 'option' to wear masks at Rose Garden event MORE, has a superior record for going after human trafficking. That said, eliminating human trafficking has proved elusive. We contend that 1 percent more of the right sort of effort, at no additional taxpayer expense, would do it.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election The hollowing out of the CDC Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points MORE spoke at a White House summit to mark the anniversary of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 200, highlighting the crusade by the administration against human trafficking. He spoke of his decision to authorize $430 million to fight sex and labor trafficking and to spend $123 million in grants to support state and local efforts, while candidly noting that despite these massive federal efforts to dismantle criminal organizations, they come back “very quickly” and in a “different form.”

Despite such heroic efforts, along with the noble effort of those who had preceded the administration, the number of trafficking victims has still not appreciably declined. However, there is great news. The United States can completely eradicate human trafficking quickly and at low cost. We have recognized expertise on the issue of rescuing human trafficking victims, and we can fortunately declare that there has been a recent significant development that can eradicate human trafficking across the country.


We had noted last year the entrance of the Chamber of Commerce and the leadership of companies such as Delta Airlines in the battle against human trafficking. The development has supplied the missing ingredient. Business stands outside the human trafficking victim rescue system that now involves government, law enforcement, and nonprofit organizations. Business, therefore, is uniquely positioned, like Archimedes with his lever, to help align the current victim rescue effort for radically better success.

The cost to make rescues happen at scale, by making human trafficking unprofitable and driving the traffickers out of business, could amount to under 1 percent of what the federal government spends. At $5 million a year, the private sector can legitimately fund that as a business expense. Moreover, there would be no taxpayer dollars and billions in savings once trafficking is eradicated. A bulk of the needed resources are already there.

We can achieve the desired outcome by aligning the relevant agencies of government, law enforcement, and nonprofit organizations. The system is rather fragmented and works inefficiently. Metropolitan police, especially vice squads, are the most cognizant agency as to where these victims are likely to be found. That said, their mission is to catch crooks, not to rescue victims. Moreover, local law enforcement is rarely well aligned with federal and state law enforcement, making it too easy for traffickers to skip town.

There are the differing priorities among federal agencies. Main Justice, the United States Attorneys Offices, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Homeland Security Department, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Border Patrol are not, on the ground, naturally aligned. Humanitarian agencies, both public and private, are constituted to house and nurture the rescued victims. However, they are neither equipped nor trained to effect rescues themselves. Police and social workers also rarely interact operationally. None of these agencies were designed to work together.

But when they do, they can work miracles, which are not magical. These miracles come from an alignment of all the relevant agencies. For public choice reasons, that alignment simply must be supplied from outside the current system. A high agency network of perhaps 100 victim rescue field agents choreographed by a small national team, paid for out of corporate public relations budgets, could effectively align the incumbent agencies. We know because we have done it repeatedly. So another word from the White House could be all it takes to galvanize that process to finally and definitively defeat the problem of human trafficking in the United States.

Dottie Laster is the president and Ralph Benko is the general counsel with Trafficking Victim Rescue Central, which handles human trafficking cases.