"Trafficking in persons—in which men, women, and children from all over the globe are transported to other countries for the purposes of forced prostitution or labor—inherently rejects the dignity of the human person and exploits conditions of global poverty.”
-Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope
"No effort should be spared to urge civil authorities and the international community to fight these abuses and to offer young children the legal protection they justly deserve."
From the Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the bishops of Sri Lanka on their "ad limina apostolorum" visit
Other Vatican Statements on Human Trafficking
What is human trafficking?
Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery. Victims of human trafficking are subjected to force, fraud, or coercion, for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor. Examples of recent cases of human trafficking in the U.S. include adolescent Mexican girls trafficked to the U.S. for prostitution, Indian men trafficked for forced labor, and African women and children trafficked for domestic servitude, among others.
The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 defines “severe forms of trafficking in persons” as follows:
- Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age, OR
- The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
The U.S. government estimates that approximately 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year; about 14,500-17,500 of them into the United States. Based on estimates by the U.S. government of the numbers of all trafficking victims and comparing those figures with widely cited figures of foreign-born children in the sex trade in the United States, we estimate conservatively about 1/3 of foreign-born trafficking victims are children.
USCCB/MRS has served trafficking victims from Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Our clients have been men, women, and children. They were trafficked for forced prostitution, forced labor, and domestic servitude.
How does USCCB/MRS respond?
The reality of thousands of our brothers and sisters laboring in modern day slavery compels us to act now to stop human trafficking and to serve the victims of this crime. USCCB/MRS, in support of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Committee on Migration, responds to the international phenomenon of trafficking in persons in several ways.
USCCB/MRS administers three federally funded programs that provide services to human trafficking survivors. One is a contract from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement, and two are grants from the U.S. Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime, to raise awareness about the issue of trafficking and serve the victims. USCCB/MRS also convenes the Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking: over twenty national and international Catholic organizations united to eliminate the scourge of human trafficking, through public education, advocacy, and services.
What help is available for trafficking victims?
Anyone in the United States identified by law enforcement as a victim of a severe form of trafficking has certain rights and may be eligible for benefits, including immigration relief, social services, and access to refugee benefit programs.
When trafficking victims are first identified, they may be granted continued presence by the Attorney General, allowing them to stay in the country temporarily during an investigation or prosecution. They can also apply for a “T-visa,” a special three-year visa for victims of trafficking which also allows them to apply for legal permanent residence status at the end of the three-year period. The victims must be willing to assist in every reasonable way in the investigation and prosecution of the trafficking case to qualify for the T-visa unless they are under age 18.
A person who is granted continued presence or applies for the T-visa, and is willing to assist in the investigation and prosecution of the case, may also be “certified” as a victim of trafficking by ORR. Once certified, the person is eligible for benefits and services to the same extent as a refugee. Therefore, certification allows the person to access resettlement services, public benefits such as food stamps or Refugee Medical Assistance, etc.
Child trafficking victims do not have to be certified, but if determined eligible by ORR, they can be placed in the network of Unaccompanied Refugee Minor programs, which are state-licensed, specialized foster care programs. USCCB/MRS has programs to meet the needs of trafficked adults and children through grants from HHS/ORR.
Someone identified as a possible trafficking victim, but is not yet certified as such, may also be eligible for assistance. USCCB/MRS works in partnership with Catholic Charities programs in Oregon and the Mid-Atlantic states to provide case management services, and training for local law enforcement and service providers, through grants from the Department of Justice/Office for Victims of Crime.