The President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (PITF) has met for the second time in the Biden-Harris Administration.
A member of the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking also joined the meeting on Feb. 13 and spoke about the Council’s 2022 report, which includes insights and recommendations for how the Federal Government can strengthen its policy and programming efforts that reflect the expertise of those with lived experience of human trafficking. In addition, the PITF meeting focused on efforts thus far and in the coming year to implement the updated National Action Plan, released on December 3, 2021, which builds upon the core components of the Federal Government’s commitment to ending human trafficking.
The Federal Government’s anti-trafficking efforts—to include implementing the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking—are coordinated by the PITF, a cabinet-level entity created by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000.
Because human trafficking disproportionately impacts communities of color, women and girls, LGBTQI+ individuals, migrants, and others from historically marginalized and underserved communities, the National Action Plan seeks to link anti-trafficking strategies to the Biden-Harris Administration’s broader efforts to advance equity and support for underserved communities. The plan reflects the Administration’s commitment to gender and racial equity, workers’ rights, preventing and addressing forced labor in global supply chains, and ensuring safe, orderly, and humane migration.
Specifically, the PITF agencies are focused on the following initiatives, rooted in a shared commitment to exercise trauma- and survivor-informed approaches and centered around the foundational pillars of U.S. and global anti-trafficking efforts: prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnerships:
- In 2023, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will increase efforts with tribal leaders and Indigenous community organizations to address the intersections of human trafficking and missing and murdered indigenous persons and focus the HHS Look Beneath the Surface Campaign to partner with organizations in directly reaching child and youth populations at highest risk for human trafficking.
- The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will enhance and expand its counter-forced labor efforts. DHS will strengthen engagement with the private sector, including by publishing additional information on importer compliance, as the Department continues to enforce the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFPLA). DHS will also develop comprehensive labor-trafficking training to better equip its criminal investigators with the expertise and tools they need to hold perpetrators accountable and identify and assist victims.
- The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is developing new materials on human trafficking for its [email protected] program, a national education and outreach campaign to promote equal employment opportunity for America’s next generation of workers.
- The Department of State (State) recently launched two multi-phase, long-term programs to affect behavioral change toward child forced begging and domestic work. Through each multi-year phase, these programs will research the issues, engage with local communities, and pilot evidence-based interventions beginning in Liberia, Niger, and Nigeria.
- The Department of Defense (DOD) is developing a DOD Instruction to prevent the procurement of resale goods produced by force or child labor. The instruction will enable Military Resale Entities to have consistent processes to reasonably ensure that resale goods are not produced with forced or child labor.
- The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of Commerce are co-leading interagency efforts to counter human trafficking, specifically in seafood supply chains. This involves collaboration among those working on civil-military cooperation and the U.S. Coast Guard to identify indicators of forced labor during boarding inspections, along with relevant follow-up procedures when such indicators are present.
- In 2023, the Department of Education will continue to offer webinars and other helpful resources to for administrators, teachers, specialized instructional support personnel, parents, caregivers, and students that address and help combat human trafficking.
- As part of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) commitment to the whole-of-government National Action Plan, its Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will continue requiring every state to permanently ban drivers convicted of trafficking from operating commercial vehicles.
- Department of Labor (DOL) investigators are ramping up their referrals of labor trafficking cases for further investigations by authorized federal, state, and/or local law enforcement agencies. In addition to providing its investigators awareness and referral training and stepping up engagement with local human trafficking task forces, DOL will help increase federal forced labor prosecutions by providing its expertise on labor exploitation and child labor in the Federal Enforcement Work Group.
- DOL continues to work diligently to ensure that all trafficking victims in the United States receive the back wages they are entitled to under the law. In the coming year, DOL will assist DOJ by providing information and training materials about its role in and processes for calculating forfeiture and restitution in both forced labor and sex trafficking cases.
- Throughout the coming year, DOJ’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit will continue to lead the interagency Forced Labor Initiative launched last year in partnership with the FBI, DHS, State’s DSS, and DOL. Through this Initiative, an interagency Steering Group collaborates to assess forced labor threats; initiate investigations and prosecutions in relevant Districts; and provide specialized expertise and strategic guidance to advance District-level efforts to detect, investigate, and prosecute labor trafficking.
- This past year, State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) completed several forced labor investigations involving domestic workers of accredited foreign diplomats. In the coming year, DSS will focus on complex transnational cases targeting sex trafficking organizations and forced labor associated with guest worker programs. In addition, DSS’s Victims’ Resource Advocacy Program (VRAP) supported dozens of identified trafficking victims with services and plans to continue wrap-around support so victims are mentally and physically available to contribute to investigations, if they wish to do so.
- In 2023, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations (USUN) will use its status as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council to advance anti-trafficking priorities. USUN will look for opportunities to encourage the United Nations and member states to support and implement trauma-informed and survivor-led initiatives. USUN also will seek to highlight the importance of strengthening identification of and services for victims from underserved and marginalized populations and addressing forced labor in supply chains.
- In keeping with commitments made in the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection, the United States and Mexico signed an historic agreement on labor mobility and the protection of participants in temporary foreign worker programs on the heels of last month’s North American Leaders’ Summit. Through this agreement, PITF identified starting points for increasing coordinated efforts to protect the rights and equal employment of temporary workers throughout recruitment, job duration, and return home.
- Similarly, under the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection, the United States is leading a multilateral policy action group to combat human smuggling and human trafficking. Other participating countries include Argentina, El Salvador, Colombia, Guatemala, Paraguay, Panama, and Guyana.
- In 2023, DOL’s Employment and Training Administration’s National Monitor Advocate will partner with the National Farmworker Jobs Program and other partners to provide training on processing complaints regarding the suspected trafficking of agricultural workers, and will meet with stakeholders about improving employment and training services, including supportive services, for victims and survivors.
- Through international fora such as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units (Egmont Group), the Department of the Treasury continues to lead efforts with international partners to strengthen anti-money laundering and understanding of human trafficking, enhance global standards to combat illicit finance, exchange information to identify and disrupt networks, and include law enforcement and interagency partners in its efforts.
- In line with the National Action Plan, the State Department continues exploring how it can further incorporate trauma- and survivor-informed approaches into its anti-trafficking work through its engagement with the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking and State’s Human Trafficking Expert Consultant Network (the Network), which comprises individuals with lived experience of human trafficking and other subject matter experts. In 2022, State partnered with the Network on several key products, most notably to draft the 2022 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report introduction on survivor engagement. For the 2023 TIP Report, the Network is advising on ethical storytelling practices so State can accurately illustrate to readers the many forms of human trafficking while protecting the privacy and dignity of victims and survivors.
- Through its long-standing partnership with the labor rights non-governmental organization (NGO) Verité, State will develop a new process that its acquisitions workforce can use to screen high-volume State contracts and determine if there are high risks of human trafficking within that contract’s supply chain. This new process will enhance how State works with bidders and contractors in preventing and remediating human trafficking risks.
- Through the Global Labor Program-New Frontiers in Advancing Labor Rights, USAID will continue to lead its global efforts to combat human trafficking by addressing root causes, researching migration dynamics to better understand and prevent trafficking, and giving more voice and protections to the most vulnerable workers in several dozen countries across regions. USAID awarded a third and final award in August 2022 to Solidarity Center to complement its suite of next-generation programming. This new $50 million, five-year program, with opportunities for buy-in up to $85 million, will run through 2027.
- HHS launched a public-private partnership to prevent human trafficking in the acquisition of healthcare and public health goods and services. The partnership brings together survivors, researchers, acquisition professionals, suppliers, worker rights organizations, and policy subject matter experts to strengthen this sector of the United States’ critical infrastructure.
- DOT will continue working with transportation stakeholders and the over 550 transportation leaders who have signed a pledge to train and raise awareness among more than 1.3 million employees across all modes of transportation.
- The Department of Interior and DOJ’s Not Invisible Act Commission (NIAC) is continuing its work to draft final recommendations to combat the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples (MMIP) crisis through its six subcommittees, which are each focused on specific public safety and justice issues, including addressing human trafficking. In the coming months, the NIAC will host in-person hearings to gather public comments for inclusion in their final report to Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, Attorney General Merrick Garland, and the U.S. Congress. The NIAC is a cross-jurisdictional joint committee composed of law enforcement, tribal leaders, federal partners, service providers, family members of missing and murdered individuals, and survivors.
Numerous documents have guided PITF’s work this past year, including the National Action Plan, U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking Annual Report 2022, 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report, and the Los Angeles Declaration. Important documents exemplifying the excellent work that has been done on countering forced labor this past year include: Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act Strategy, List of Goods Produced by Child or Forced Labor, U.S., Japan, and EU Joint Statement, and U.S.-EU Trade and Labor Dialogue.