Human trafficking, also known as trafficking in persons (TIP), is a modern-day form of slavery. It is a crime under federal and international law; it is also a crime in every state in the United States.
Federal Anti-Trafficking Laws
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 is the first comprehensive federal law to address trafficking in persons. The law provides a three-pronged approach that includes prevention, protection, and prosecution. The TVPA was reauthorized through the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2003, 2005, 2008, 2013, and 2017.
Under U.S. federal law, “severe forms of trafficking in persons” includes both sex trafficking and labor trafficking:
Sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age (22 USC § 7102).
Labor trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purposes of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery, (22 USC § 7102).
a condition of servitude induced by means of any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause a person to believe that, if the person did not enter into or continue in such condition, that person or another person would suffer serious harm or physical restraint; or the abuse or threatened abuse of the legal process (22 U.S.C. 7102 (6)).
the status or condition of a debtor arising from a pledge by the debtor of his or her personal services or of those of a person under his or her control as a security for debt, if the value of those services as reasonably assessed is not applied toward the liquidation of the debt or the length and nature of those services are not respectively limited and defined (22 U.S.C. 7102 (5)).
(A) threats of serious harm to or physical restraint against any person;
(B) any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause a person to believe that failure to perform an act would result in serious harm to or physical restraint against any person; or
(C) the abuse or threatened abuse of the legal process (22 U.S.C. 7102 (3)).
Commercial Sex Act
The term “commercial sex act” means any sex act on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person (22 U.S.C. 7102 (4)).
Trafficking Victims Protection Act Summary
Below are links to the initial Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 and it subsequent reauthorizations. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act Summary resource pack includes the TVPA Fact Sheet which provides a summary of the initial legislation and some of the key modifications made with each legislation.
- Trafficking Victims Protection Act Summary Resource Pack
- Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000
- TVPA Reauthorization Act 2003
- TVPA Reauthorization Act 2005
- TVPA Reauthorization Act 2008
- TVPA Reauthorization Act of 2013
- TVPA Reauthorization Act of 2017
The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015
The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA) of 2015 improves the U.S. response to human trafficking. It contains a number of important amendments that strengthen services for victims. Among these amendments are changes in the criminal liability of buyers of commercial sex from victims of trafficking, the creation of a survivor-led U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking, and new directives for the implementation of a national strategy for combating human trafficking.
The JVTA also requires the creation of a domestic trafficking victim’s fund to support victim assistance programs, block grants for child trafficking deterrence programs, and additional training requirements for first responders, among others. Notably, the JVTA amended the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) by declaring youth who are victims of severe forms of trafficking in persons are eligible for services under the RHYA. It also amended the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) by adding human trafficking and child pornography as forms of child abuse.
The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014
The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014 seeks to reduce the incidence of sex trafficking among youth involved in the foster care system. The portion of this law specific to sex trafficking requires child welfare systems to improve their response to sex trafficking by screening and identifying youth who are sex trafficking victims or those who are at risk for sex trafficking, provide appropriate services to youth who experience sex trafficking, report missing children to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and develop protocols for locating missing or runaway children and determine what circumstances they faced while away from care.
Furthermore, state child welfare agencies are required to report instances of sex trafficking to law enforcement and provide information regarding sex trafficking victims or at-risk youth to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, who will in turn report these numbers to Congress. For more information on the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, see the National Conference of State Legislator’s Summary.