REMARKS OF ATTORNEY GENERAL JOHN ASHCROFT
"Path-breaking Strategies in the Global Fight Against Sex Trafficking"
February 25, 2003
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The second area of our efforts involves assisting victims of trafficking with
immigration issues. The Immigration and Naturalization Service has assisted
approximately 300 victims in getting access to immigration benefits. The INS
has granted 300 "continued presence" requests and is currently processing
150 T-visa applications. In the past, traffickers have exploited their victims'
fear of being discovered as illegal aliens. The T-visa was designed to help
trafficking victims who cooperate with law enforcement to punish those responsible
for their enslavement. It allows victims to remain in the United States and
allows us to turn the exploitive tactics of traffickers against them.
These T-visas are making an important difference one life at a time. Since
I announced the implementation of the T-visas, the INS has been able to grant
23 T-visas to victims in need. The courageous women and children who help U.S.
prosecutors convict traffickers of these egregious crimes deserve and need the
best help we can give them.
Although the INS will soon be housed in the newly-created Department of Homeland
Security, the Department of Justice will continue to work hand in hand with
other federal agencies to continue the fight against trafficking.
The third area of our victims' assistance efforts involves the training of both
federal and local law enforcement to ensure trafficking victims are swiftly
identified and soundly protected. Last fall, the Criminal Section of the Department's
Civil Rights Division organized comprehensive anti-trafficking training for
federal prosecutors and agents.
- We train investigators to determine whether human
trafficking activity is masquerading as other crime, such as alien
- We provide law enforcement officials with federal,
state and local contacts to assist them in moving quickly to triage a
- We develop regional anti-trafficking task forces
across the country.
- We forge new ties of cooperation with non-governmental organizations throughout
the nation, and train their service providers on the victim services and criminal
provisions of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
Fourth and finally, we have increased coordination among federal, state, and
local law enforcement agencies. The Plainfield, New Jersey, sex trafficking
case is a prime example: federal and local police collaborated to investigate
the crime, safeguard the victims, and prosecute the traffickers. The victims
were given safe haven by a non-governmental organization.
To better integrate our interagency coordination, in the next month the Department
of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services will execute a Memorandum
of Understanding that will formalize our extensive coordination in helping trafficking
victims. Specifically, we will coordinate our efforts so victims may receive
"continued presence," a designation that they have submitted a "bona
fide" T visa application, and a certification that they are eligible to
receive HHS benefits and services as if they were refugees. It will then be
easier to provide assistance to victims in the crucial period between the time
they are discovered by law enforcement and the time they are eligible for refugee
As the reports of human trafficking continue to increase, we are reminded
sharply that no state, no territory, no nation is immune from these crimes.
Victims of trafficking come from many places, but share a common plight. They
are too young, too frightened, and too trapped in their circumstances to speak
for themselves. It falls to us - all of us gathered here today - to
be the voices of these victims. We cannot - we will not - stand by
as women and children are sold into slavery, and as the toll in human suffering
Sex trafficking is more than just a serious violation of the law. It is an
affront to human dignity; it is an assault on human values. We must and we will
continue to work together to protect the victims of trafficking and to bring
to justice all those who violate their human dignity.