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U.S. Makes Debut in State Department Human Trafficking Rankings

June 20, 2010
Secretary Clinton

Secretary Clinton presents the 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report / Alex Wong for Getty Images

Last Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released the State Department’s 10th annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, and a notable addition to the report signals a shift in attitude about modern slavery in the U.S. For the first time the U.S. is listed with 176 other countries in a ranking of how well the nations meet the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards for addressing human trafficking. Since its inception the report has discussed the U.S.’s role as a destination or transit country for trafficked people, but this is the first time it has named the U.S. as a source country as well.

According to NPR, Secretary Clinton emphasized that this change should make Americans realize slavery still exists their country, saying,

This report sends a clear message to all of our countrymen and women: human trafficking is not someone else’s problem. Involuntary servitude is not something we can ignore or hope doesn’t exist in our own community.

Underscoring the significance of the problem in the U.S., in another first at Monday’s ceremony a U.S.-based activist was honored for her anti-trafficking work. Laura Germino of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers was honored for her organization’s role in helping the “US Department of Justice prosecute seven slavery operations in Florida over the last fifteen years, resulting in the liberation of over 1,000 farmworkers,” reports NPR.

The U.S. is ranked in the TIP  report as a Tier 1 country, meaning it complies with the minimum standards set forth by TVPA. Other categories include Tier 2 for countries that have demonstrated efforts to meet the standards but do not yet fully comply; the Tier 2 Watch List indicating similar conditions as Tier 2 except with severe trafficking increases or lack of improvement over the past year; and Tier 3 including countries that are making no effort to meet the standards.

For Tier 3 countries, the ranking comes with potential consequences as the U.S. may chose to impose sanctions to “withhold nonhumanitarian, non-trade-related foreign assistance,” according to the TIP report. At least one country, the Dominican Republic, is protesting its Tier 3 ranking, according to the Taiwan News.

The TIP report is an eye-opening crash course in human trafficking, including analyses of various government responses, descriptions of specific problems such as child marriage, child soldiers and inadequate disaster response, and heartbreaking photos and stories of trafficking victims. Significant attention is also brought to trafficking as a women’s issue, especially the “feminization of migration” as women outpace men as victims of forced labor. Encouragingly however, the report notes that addressing trafficking in a similar manner to other women’s issues could help spur positive change by focusing on survivor support in addition to persecution of perpetrators:

Women are not just the victims; in so many countries, they are the solution. In the United States, the victim-centered approach of the TVPA was patterned on the lessons of legal reforms targeting domestic violence and sexual assault.

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