Trafficking Victims Protection Act

Congress Sends Strong Message with Passage of Trafficking Victims Protection Act

Funds will help combat exploitation of women, children, and immigrants

JANUARY 7, 2009From our friends at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA)

The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) celebrates the passage in Congress of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Act (Public Law No. 110-457), which the president signed into law on Dec. 23, 2008. The House of Representatives bill (HR7311) proposed $7.5 million for victim assistance, and it increases the focus on combating trafficking in children. The legislation also includes provisions to make it easier for victims to remain in the U.S.

“In addition to increasing penalties for human traffickers, HR7311 appropriates funding for outreach and education efforts to help communities, including foreign governments, identify and combat human trafficking,” remarked Cynthia Buiza, director of policy and programs at CHIRLA. “It is important that we see human trafficking as a shameful act of violence against vulnerable communities, including women, children, and immigrants.”

Although accurate figures on human trafficking are difficult to obtain, tougher enforcement measures at the U.S.-Mexico border and involvement by organized crime have forced more migrants crossing the border to seek help from “coyotes,” who often treat them as premium merchandise similar to narcotics. The increasing number of rapes, beatings, kidnappings, extortions and other human rights violations go beyond “people smuggling,” with many fatal results. Unfortunately, current laws do not recognize these crimes as trafficking, because it is widely believed that border-crossing crimes are the result of a willing transaction initiated by the migrant.

“The migrant corridor from Latin America and Asia is a trail of shattered dreams for many migrants who end up as victims of unscrupulous smugglers. Whether these heinous crimes occur in Cambodia, Guatemala, Mexico, or downtown Los Angeles, awareness in the general public is one of the most important tools we have to combat these acts,” said Jorge-Mario Cabrera, director of education at CHIRLA. He added, “Existing laws must be responsive to changing times and make available funding and legal relief to all victims of trafficking, especially in immigrant communities.”

According to federal officials, Los Angeles has one of the lowest rates of trafficking reporting and convictions of any large U.S. city. Domestic and foreign trafficking may involve sex work, forced marriage, domestic servitude, forced labor, and sales involving children, women, and men.