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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

White House Releases National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking

The White House has released the 2021 National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, which lays out a broad-based, multi-disciplinary, whole-of-government approach to addressing this crime and its harmful impacts on crime victims, their communities and U.S. national security. 

Globally, an estimated 25 million people are subjected to human trafficking and forced labor, which is responsible for an estimated $150 billion annually in illicit profits.  

The anti-trafficking efforts outlined in the latest National Action Plan are directly linked to the Biden-Harris administration’s broader efforts to address inequities for marginalized groups.  These communities often experience overlapping social and economic inequities, and individuals may suffer multiple forms of abuse.  As a result, individuals from these communities may be more vulnerable to becoming victims of human trafficking. The plan also reflects the administration’s commitment to workers’ rights and ending forced labor in global supply chains, which the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated due, in part, to job insecurity, supply chain disruptions, and exponential demand for essential medical supplies and services.  

The Action Plan calls upon the U.S. Department of Justice and its partners across the Executive Branch to implement a number of Priority Actions to enhance U.S. efforts to combat human trafficking.

“Human trafficking is an insidious crime that impacts some of the most vulnerable people in our country and around the world,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “Vindicating the rights of human trafficking victims and other vulnerable individuals ranks among the highest priorities of the Department of Justice. The department welcomes the issuance of this National Action Plan, which will streamline coordination among federal anti-trafficking partners, strengthening our ability to seek justice for victims and hold perpetrators accountable. We are committed to using every tool at our disposal to prevent human trafficking; increase detection, investigation and prosecution of human trafficking crimes; and expand support and services to protect and empower survivors.”

Attorney General Garland has already taken steps to deepen and strengthen the department’s work alongside its federal partners to assess the threat presented by human trafficking and mitigate the vulnerabilities that expose victims to exploitation and abuse. The department’s anti-trafficking experts worked closely with law enforcement and intelligence community agencies throughout 2021 to produce a comprehensive, interagency Human Trafficking Intelligence Assessment. This interagency Intelligence Assessment, finalized in July 2021, continues to inform Executive Branch policies, strategies and priorities in response to complex, evolving human trafficking threats.

Furthermore, in June 2021, the Attorney General launched Joint Task Force Alpha (JTFA), in partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other law enforcement agencies, to combat smuggling and trafficking in persons from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico. The Task Force is working within the United States and with foreign partners to dismantle criminal networks that subject smuggled migrants to dangerous, abusive and exploitive conditions and that engage in human trafficking. 

The Department of Justice has expressed its gratitude to survivor experts, including the U.S. Advisory Council, and other stakeholders who were consulted for their expertise during the development of the National Action Plan. The plan emphasizes the use of victim-centered and trauma-informed approaches that are necessary for success in all anti-trafficking efforts. The department will play a lead role in implementing the following Priority Actions, among others:

  • Expand interagency enforcement initiatives aimed at increasing high impact prosecutions of forced labor, sex trafficking of adults by force, fraud or coercion and transnational sex trafficking, and work with the Department of Homeland Security to launch a labor trafficking enforcement initiative.
  • Engage relevant stakeholders, including state, local, tribal and territorial law enforcement and survivors and survivor organizations, to strengthen their prosecutions related to child sex trafficking.
  • Dismantle organized criminal human trafficking enterprises by targeting their financial networks, communication systems and other infrastructure, and by targeting facilitators of human trafficking.
  • Develop improved technology for human trafficking interdiction and identify technical barriers impeding investigations.
  • Enhance capabilities to locate children who are missing, including those who have run away from foster care, and are vulnerable to human trafficking.
  • Ensure the safety and well-being of human trafficking victims in the course of FBI investigations by using and promoting a victim-centered, trauma-informed approach among all federal, state, local, territorial and tribal law enforcement partners.
  • Conduct comprehensive training covering the collection of restitution and transfer of forfeited funds to victims.
  • Prioritize the Office for Victims of Crime’s housing program to support safe, stable housing options for human trafficking victims.
  • Consider enhancements to the model task forces program to increase collaboration between victim services, law enforcement, and community and survivor stakeholders.
  • Seek to establish federally-funded human trafficking task forces that are sustainable and state, tribal, territorial or locally-led.
  • Release a self-guided training on integrating trauma-informed engagement in supporting individuals and communities impacted by human trafficking.
  • Support research and develop the evidence needed to better prevent and respond to trafficking in persons in the United States.

Read the National Action Plan at the White House

Kylie Bielby
Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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