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Topic: Actions/initiatives/projects
Law enforcement
Policy and Planning
Trafficking patterns
Geographic descriptors: United States of America
Long Abstract: Each year approximately 800,000 to 900,000 men, women and children are victims of human trafficking across international borders, according to the U.S. Department of State. About 18,000 to 20,000 of those victims are brought into the United States from other countries for labor and sex trafficking. Eighty percent of all human trafficking victims are female and 50 percent of those are children younger than 18, Acosta said. Victims can be found providing domestic service for people, working in kitchens of restaurants or working on farms harvesting crops, to name a few of the jobs they are coerced into working, Acosta said. Acosta pointed out the importance of getting information to people who can help find victims, such as law enforcement, doctors, childcare agencies, faith-based organizations and other social service agencies. He encouraged those attending the conference to take the issue back to their states. "We don't realize how often it happens," he said. Eckerd College professor Nancy Jannus of Bradenton, who took her students to Thailand and Cambodia last year to learn more about human trafficking in other countries, was concerned about how villagers were informed about traffickers and psychology services offered to victims. In some Asian countries they were using a Western European approach of group counseling for victims, which was not effective, Jannus said. "One thing I found in Cambodia . . . it is not good counseling for victims," she said. "It's not very productive." The women legislators hoped to leave the conference with new policies regarding human trafficking laws so the U.S. can put an end to what many call "modern day slavery." "By 2005, it is the goal of the National Foundation of Women Legislators to introduce and pass legislation in all 50 states," said Dr. Laura Lederer, a senior adviser on trafficking for the U.S. Department of State, at a conference workshop Friday. Lederer has been speaking about human trafficking since 1999 before the passing of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act in 2000. Four states, including Florida, Missouri, Texas, and Washington State, already have added to the national effort in fighting human trafficking by instituting their own laws, but the legislators want more states to join the fight, said conference attendees. Florida signed into law this year a bill making the sexual trafficking of minor children a felony. "It really is the worst human rights problems in the world right now," said Steve Wagner, director of the office of human trafficking with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Health and Human Services is launching a national campaign geared towards highlighting human trafficking called "Rescue and Restore," hoping to alert agencies and law enforcement about identifying human trafficking. "There really is no community that is immune." A handout was distributed at one of two conference workshops outlining human trafficking laws passed in other states. It contained a model law state representatives could take back to their constituents and tailor to the needs of their state. Later in the day, conference discussions focused even more on creating new state laws. "It is truly an important issue," said State Rep. Faye Culp, R-Tampa, who addressed hundreds of conference attendees during breakfast. A human trafficking task force made up of women legislators from across the country already is working with the U.S. Attorney's offices and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to look at what can be done, according to Culp. But help is needed nationwide, said lawmakers at the conference. The U.S. Department of Justice announced this year $14 million would be available to law enforcement agencies and service providers that participate in human trafficking task forces. The largest numbers of victims are found in the larger cities where there are international businesses and larger ethnic communities, said T. March Bell, senior counsel on Trafficking for the U.S. Department of Justice. The only way to access the victims is to identify and prosecute the traffickers, he said. Since 2001, the U.S. has prosecuted 166 traffickers, 55 of those since October of last year. As of 2004, the U.S. Department of Justice has 187 ongoing investigations into trafficking operations. "You can find it wherever there is a need for low-end labor," Bell said.
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