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Criminal Justice, Human Rights

U.S. human trafficking incidents, 2008-2010

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In the United States, the legal framework to prevent, track and prosecute cases involving the use of human beings for the purposes of forced prostitution, labor, and other exploitative practices was established in the Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000. The first full report from the Department of Justice on human trafficking cases prosecuted within the United States was released in 2005 and reported on years 2001 to 2005. This report showed 555 suspected cases of human trafficking in the United States, 44% of which occurred in 2005.

Following the release of this report, Congress reauthorized the TVPA and added a requirement for a biennial report from the Department of Justice on all human trafficking cases. The report for 2007 and 2008 recorded more than 1,200 suspected incidents of human trafficking.

The findings of the 2011 report, “Characteristics of Suspected Human Trafficking Incidents, 2008-2010,” include:

  • From 2008 to 2010, Federal anti-trafficking task forces opened 2,515 suspected cases of human trafficking.
  • 82% of suspected incidents were classified as sex trafficking; nearly half of these involved victims under the age of 18.
  • Approximately 10%  of the incidents were classified as labor trafficking.
  • 83% of victims in confirmed sex-trafficking incidents were identified as U.S. citizens, while most confirmed labor-trafficking victims were identified as undocumented immigrants (67%) or legal immigrants (28%).
  • Only 25% of the confirmed victims of human trafficking received a “T-visa,” part of a federal program designed to aid victims of trafficking.

While the findings represent the government’s best estimate, the authors caution that “the data described in this report reflect the information that was available to, and entered by, these state and local law enforcement agencies,” and such data systems are still being established and are likely not recording all incidents.

Tags: children, youth, crime, sex crimes

    Writer: | Last updated: May 20, 2011

    Citation: Banks, Duren, Kyckelhahn, Tracey. “Characteristics of Suspected Human Trafficking Incidents, 2008-2010,” U.S. Department of Justice, April, 2011.

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    Analysis assignments

    Read the issue-related Los Angeles Times article "Guatamalan Girl Describes Alleged Enforced Prostitution."

    1. If you were to rewrite the article based on knowledge of the study, what key changes would you make?

    Read the full Department of Justice report "Characteristics of Suspected Human Trafficking Incidents, 2008-2010."

    1. Summarize the study in fewer than 40 words.
    2. Express the study's key term(s) in language a lay audience can understand.
    3. Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example: Do the results conflict with those of other reliable studies? Are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)

    Newswriting assignments

    1. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study.
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    4. Spend additional time exploring the issue and then write a 1,200-word background article, focusing on major aspects of the issue.