The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA)

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Pictured above:  See Ima Matul (holding the Activism sign) with other empowered survivors from CAST (Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking) ©CAST 2011

Ima:  My name is Ima Matul.  I was born in Indonesia, and I was trafficked into the United States for forced labor when I was 17 years old.

Holly:  My name is Holly Smith.  I was born in New Jersey, and I was trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation when I was 14 years old.

These were the beginning statements of my congressional testimony with CAST survivor advisory caucus member, Ima Matul, in September 2011.  The written testimony, entitled “The Importance of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2011 (TVPRA) to Survivors of Human Trafficking,” was submitted on record.

Since my posting on The Impact of Empowered Survivors, I’ve had a few emails asking about the TVPRA, so I thought I’d write up a short summary about it.

The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act was enacted in 2000.  The purpose of the act was as follows:

“To combat trafficking in persons, especially into the sex trade, slavery, and involuntary servitude, to reauthorize certain Federal programs to prevent violence againstwomen, and for other purposes.”

The act was broken down into three divisions: the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), the Violence Against Women Act, and Miscellaneous Provisions.  The purpose of the TVPA was stated as follows:

“…to combat trafficking in persons, a contemporary manifestation of slavery whose victims are predominantly women and children, to ensure just and effective punishment of traffickers, and to protect their victims.”

My understanding of  the three areas addressed by the TVPA (i.e. prevention, prosecution, and protection) is broken down as follows:

Prevention: The TVPA called for the following:

-The Executive must consult/cooperate with non-government organizations (NGOs) to establish public education initiatives to increase awareness of human trafficking and the protections available for victims

-A Federal Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking will collect and organize data on trafficking

-Federal agencies must provide research grants to NGOs to examine the economic causes and consequences of trafficking and the effectiveness of assistance programs

Prosecution:  The TVPA allowed for creation of new laws, including the following:

-it defined involuntary servitude to include non-violent coercion.
-it allowed for prosecution for forced labor
- it criminalized the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtainment of any person for slavery or involuntary servitude
-it criminalized the above of any person under age 18 or any person by force/coercion to engage in commercial sex acts
-it allowed for prosecution where traffickers destroy, conceal, or remove legal documents to restrict a person’s movement

These crimes were made punishable with a fine or imprisonment for up to 20 years.  For those cases involving aggravating circumstances, imprisonment could be up to life.

Protection:all trafficked victims have the legal right to:

-appropriate shelter
-medical care
-access information about their rights
-translation services
-witness protection
-mandatory restitution
-civil action

All foreign victims of severe forms of human trafficking may be granted a “continued presence” in the U.S. with the option to apply for a T-Visa.  These victims will receive the same benefits as refugees (e.g. medical / psychological assistance, food stamps, housing, job training, education programs, translation services, and legal assistance)

“Continued presence-” will be granted if a person is needed to prosecute trafficker(s) and/or if their safety will be compromised by leaving.

T-Visa- a foreign victim of a severe form of trafficking can self-petition for a T-Visa which:
-allows immediate family members to join them
-allows them to work
-allows them to apply for permanent residency after 3 years

Sex Trafficking:

The TVPA defined sex trafficking as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act.”

It also defined a severe case of sex trafficking as an act which is “induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or…the person induced to perform the act is not yet eighteen.”

This Act has been reauthorized with provisions every three years since the year 2000.  I believe it is still awaiting reauthorization for 2011.

To donate to CAST (Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking), please click here.

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