U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) joined many other law enforcement agencies and non-governmental organizations in raising awareness of human trafficking during January. The agency continues its charge all year long to combat the crime and assist victims.
“I am incredibly proud of ICE’s role as a leader and partner with the law enforcement community to combat human trafficking. Every day, ICE works tirelessly to pursue the perpetrators of this heinous crime and assist victims,” said Acting ICE Director Tae D. Johnson. “I’m equally encouraged to see ICE personnel coming together this month, conducting education and awareness with our law enforcement partners across the country to educate the general public so they can recognize and report human trafficking.”
In Fiscal Year 2021, ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) arrested 2,360 individuals in connection with human trafficking. From those cases, more than 720 trafficking victims were identified and offered critical assistance.
In 2021, the HSI-led human trafficking investigation into R. Kelly made national headlines, but it was just one of the many efforts by ICE to pursue justice for victims. HSI investigations into human traffickers across the country included an Arizona man sentenced to 10 years for forcing women into prostitution and a Texas man sentenced to 15 years in prison for sex trafficking of a minor.
HSI also investigated a case of an Illinois woman that resulted in the trafficker being sentenced to prison and ordered to pay more than $100,000 in restitution to victims of labor trafficking.
In July 2021, ICE announced a new Continued Presence resource guide to assist federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement agencies nationwide with their human trafficking investigations and prosecutions. Continued Presence provides a temporary immigration designation to individuals identified by law enforcement as human trafficking victims, who may be potential witnesses or have filed federal civil actions. Recipients are also eligible for federal benefits and services that provide victims with stability, a means of support, and protection from removal. When used by law enforcement, Continued Presence is a tool that helps increase the likelihood of success in human trafficking investigations and prosecutions.
ICE’s Victim Assistance Program (VAP) supports the victim-centered approach to investigations into crimes of victimization and exploitation. The VAP responds to victim issues in a wide range of federal crimes, including human trafficking. The VAP provides a critical resource to HSI investigations and criminal prosecutions by ensuring that victims have access to the rights and services to which they are entitled by law, as well as the assistance they need so that they can participate actively and fully in the criminal justice system process.
ICE is a critical component of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Center for Countering Human Trafficking (CCHT), a cross-Department coordination center for countering sex trafficking and forced labor, including the importation of goods produced with forced labor. Its mission is to advance counter-human trafficking law enforcement operations, protect victims, and enhance prevention efforts by aligning DHS’s capabilities and expertise. Visit the DHS Center for Countering Human Trafficking to learn more about our Department-wide efforts to combat human trafficking.
ICE also partners with the DHS’s Blue Campaign, to educate the public, law enforcement and other industry partners to recognize indicators of human trafficking and how to appropriately respond to possible cases. The campaign works closely with all DHS components, including ICE, to develop general awareness trainings and educational resources to help ensure the public knows how to recognize and report human trafficking to law enforcement.
On Jan. 11, National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, ICE participated in the DHS Blue Campaign’s Wear Blue Day to encourage participants to dress in blue attire and post photos on social media using the hashtag #WearBlueDay, to raise awareness of human trafficking.
ICE encourages anyone who suspects human trafficking to report it to local law enforcement. Tips can also be submitted to ICE anonymously online at ice.gov/tipline or by phone at 866-347-2423.
HSI is a directorate of ICE and the principal investigative arm of DHS, responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.