April 30, 2019

Current Federal Human Trafficking Laws

Source: Polaris Project, April 30, 2019

Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 is the cornerstone of Federal human trafficking legislation, and established several methods of prosecuting traffickers, preventing human trafficking, and protecting victims and survivors of trafficking. The act establishes human trafficking and related offenses as federal crimes, and attaches severe penalties to them. It also mandates restitution be paid to victims of human trafficking. It further works to prevent trafficking by establishing the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, which is required to publish a Trafficking In Persons (TIP) report each year. The TIP report describes and ranks the efforts of countries to combat human trafficking. The act also established the Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking, which assists in the implementation of the TVPA. The TVPA protects victims and survivors of human trafficking by establishing the T visa, which allows victims of human trafficking, and their families to become temporary U.S. residents and eligible to become permanent residents after three years.

Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2003

The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2003 (TVPRA of 2003) established a federal, civil right of action for trafficking victims to sue their traffickers. It also added human trafficking to the list of crimes that can be charged under the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute. It also included additional provisions for protection of victims and their families from deportation, and a requirement that the Attorney General report to Congress annually on the activities of the U.S. government in the fight against trafficking.

Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005

The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005 (TVPRA of 2005) included a pilot program for sheltering minors who are survivors of human trafficking, and grant programs to assist state and local law enforcement combat trafficking. It also expanded measures to combat trafficking internationally, including provisions to fight sex tourism, a $5 million pilot program for treatment of trafficking victims abroad, and a strengthening of the regulation over government contracts to ensure they are not made with individuals or organizations that promote or engage in human trafficking.

Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008

The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA of 2008) included several new prevention strategies, including requirements that the government provide information about workers’ rights to all people applying for work and education-based visas. It also put in place new systems to gather and report human trafficking data. In addition to the prevention strategies, the 2008 reauthorization expanded the protections available with the T visa, and required that all unaccompanied alien children be screened as potential victims of human trafficking. This reauthorization also enhanced criminal sanctions against traffickers, and expanded definitions of various types of trafficking to make prosecution easier. 

Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2013

The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2013 (TVPRA 2013), which was passed as an amendment to the Violence Against Women Act, establishes and strengthens programs to ensure that U.S. citizens do not purchase products made by victims of human trafficking, and to prevent child marriage. It also puts into place emergency response provisions within the State Department to respond quickly to disaster areas and crises where people are particularly susceptible to being trafficked. The reauthorization also strengthens collaboration with state and local law enforcement to ease charging and prosecuting traffickers.

The Tariff Act of 1930

The Tariff Act of 1930 prohibits importing goods made with forced or indentured labor.

The Customs and Facilitations and Trade Enforcement Act (2009)

The Customs and Facilitations and Trade Enforcement Act amended the prohibition on importing goods made with slave or indentured labor to include goods made through the use of coercion or goods made by victims of human trafficking.

The Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)

RICO was created to be a tool for the federal government to more effectively prosecute members of organized crime for racketeering offenses.  Federal human trafficking offenses are included as racketeering offenses, thus giving law enforcement a powerful tool when prosecuting traffickers. 

The Mann Act

The Mann Act of 1910, (18 U.S.C. § 2421-2424) as amended in 1978 and again in 1986, criminalizes the transportation of minors, and the coercion of adults to travel across state lines or to foreign countries, for the purposes of engaging commercial sex. Both crimes are punishable with up to twenty years in prison, with enhanced punishment options for the transportation of a minor.


The Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to End the Exploitation of Children Today(PROTECT) Act of 2003, established enhanced penalties for individuals engaging in sex tourism with children, both within the United States and in other countries; The Amber Alert System and other methods of alerting the public to missing, exploited, and abducted children; and grants for transitional housing for child victims of sexual assault.

National Defense Authorization Act of 2013

Sections 1701-1708 of the National Defense Authorization Act seeks to limit human trafficking associated with government contractors. These sections give governmental agencies the ability to terminate, without penalty, any contract or grant with any organization or individual that engages in human trafficking. It also requires that all grants and contracts worth more than $500,000, have a written certification that no party in the transaction will engage in or support human trafficking practices. It also establishes methods of reporting and investigating possible instances of human trafficking associated with government contracts and grants.

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