Human Trafficking | U.S – Customs and Border Protection

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Report suspected human trafficking activity to law enforcement (available 24/7, in over 300 languages and dialects):
866-347-2423 (toll-free)
802-872-6199 (non toll-free international)
Report online at
In 2000, Congress signed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act into law, representing the beginning of a large-scale, coordinated effort by the United States government to fight human trafficking.
Twenty years later, human trafficking still remains prevalent. According to recent figures available (Source: Global Estimates of Modern Slavery: Forced Labour and Forced Marriage, Geneva, September 2017):
Although the legal definition of human trafficking is complex, the simple meaning of it is not. It occurs when a person is induced by force, fraud or coercion to:
According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, although many people think of the sex trade when they think of human trafficking, this crime also occurs in such labor situations as:
In addition, with respect to labor situations, the initial agreement to travel or to perform work does not mean that the employer is later allowed to restrict a victim’s freedom or use force or threats to obtain repayment.
Human trafficking and human smuggling are sometimes, but not always, linked, because not all individuals who are smuggled are trafficked, and movement is not required for trafficking to occur.
These terms include any situation where an individual is forced to do something against their will, or where they are tricked into doing something by someone who is lying to them or suppressing the truth. According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, force can be active and physical or indirect and psychological (including threats). This term includes:
Coercion refers to behaviors including:
Fraud refers to intentionally distorting the truth in order to get someone else (who relies on that version of the truth) to surrender a legal right or give up something valuable that belongs to them.
Human trafficking entangles victims in a nearly impenetrable web, for a number of reasons:
The victim may not realize that he or she is imprisoned, because coercion is psychological (it may not be physical)
It is sometimes said that human trafficking is an “invisible crime,” because its signs are not always obvious to the untrained eye. However, there are some indicators that may serve as a tip-off, particularly when they appear in combination. Suspect that something is amiss if an individual:
Four executive agencies of the U.S. government, along with state and local law enforcement organizations, work together as well as with nonprofit organizations to combat human trafficking. The primary U.S. executive agencies include:
The Department of Homeland Security and its component agencies have been raising awareness for the past several years about the issue of human trafficking. Most recently, DHS announced an aggressive effort to protect victims and prosecute traffickers, in line with the TVPA’s focus on three key goals:
Currently, the Department is focusing on the first of the three goals above, by sponsoring heavily advertised public awareness campaigns about human trafficking created by CBP and its sister agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and making potential victims aware that they are in danger, and that the government offers resources to provide them with asylum and other forms of assistance.
With more than 42,000 frontline CBP officers and Border Patrol agents protecting nearly 7,000 miles of land border and 328 ports of entry—including official crossings by land, air, and sea—CBP is uniquely situated to deter and disrupt human trafficking. Currently, the agency is:
Within the agency, CBP has implemented comprehensive training for its frontline personnel with more forthcoming. Through its local field and sector offices, CBP is instructing them to recognize potential instances of human trafficking and to take appropriate actions when encountering human trafficking victims.
Human trafficking is a heinous international crime, and as the State Department notes in its most recent report on the subject, it is unfortunately flourishing due to current global financial issues. With global demand for labor decreasing, impoverished workers find themselves taking greater risks than before in order to survive. The result: “a recipe for greater forced labor of migrant workers and commercial sexual exploitation of women in prostitution.”
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