Human trafficking is estimated to be a $150 billion global industry and one of the top three most lucrative crimes. However, current U.S. funding for anti-trafficking programs is about $112.1 million. These programs fund both efforts to prosecute traffickers and to provide services to victims of this heinous crime. The current federal funding allocated to anti-trafficking efforts is woefully insufficient to fight human trafficking and meet the needs of victims and survivors. To put this funding amount of $112.1 million in perspective, U.S. expenditures for fiscal year 2015 were about $3.65 trillion. While the U.S. has much to fund, it is troubling that only $112.1 million out of $3.65 trillion goes to combating human trafficking within the U.S., given the fact that it is a significant problem. In order to combat human trafficking within the U.S., the efforts to do so must be funded adequately. There are an estimated 17,000 homicides each year in the U.S., and almost every local police department has a homicide unit. Although there is no official estimate of the total number of human trafficking victims in the U.S., 100,000 children are estimated to be in the sex trade each year. When this estimate is combined with estimates of both adults and minors and sex trafficking and labor trafficking victims, it is clear that the total number of victims nationally reaches into the hundreds of thousands. Despite the hundreds of thousands of estimated trafficking victims, human trafficking programs remain underfunded. The stark contrast in funding between homicide departments and human trafficking efforts is extremely troubling.
The Alliance to End Slavery & Trafficking (ATEST), an advocacy and policy arm of Humanity United, a philanthropic organization dedicated to eradicating human trafficking, is requesting that FY16 funding for federal anti-trafficking programs be allocated across multiple federal departments and agencies, including:
- Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) — which includes the Office of Justice Programs: Victims Services Task Forces, the Human Trafficking Slavery Prosecution Unit (HTSPU), the U.S. States Attorneys Offices (USAO), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation;
- Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Related Agencies (LHHS) — which includes the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), the HHS/National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC), the HHS/Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, the HHS/CDC, the HHS Victim Services Strategic Plan, the Department of Education (ED)/McKinney-Vento Act, ED Grants to Local Education Agencies, the Department of Labor (DOL)/ Department of Wage and Hour, and the DOL/ International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB);
- State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs (SFOPS) — which includes the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (J/TIP), the Bureau of International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE), the Bureau of Democracy, Rights, and Labor (DRL), the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Policy (CTIP), the USAID/DCHA Global Labor Program, and the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline Number;
- Department of Homeland Security (DHS) — which includes U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP);
- Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) — which includes the U.S. Department of Treasury/Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and the General Services Administration/Office of Government-wide Policy (GSA/OGP);
- Department of Defense (DOD) — which includes the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Child Soldier Prevention Act;
- Armed Services — which includes the Office of the Secretary of Defense; and
- Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (HUD) — which includes HUD Homeless Assistance Grants.
These agencies have a variety of roles in including prosecuting offenders, and providing services to women, men, and children impacted by human trafficking.
While the requested funds are a marked increase, for not only the respective departments and agencies, but in totality, the amount is no where near the estimated $150 billion in profits that criminals make off of the exploitation of humans. According to ATEST, we must “fund the fight to end modern slavery and human trafficking.” If we do not adequately fund this fight, human trafficking will persist, and vulnerable individuals will continue to be victimized. Funding for efforts to combat human trafficking must be high on the radar for those in positions of decision making for appropriations.
In order to adequately support anti-trafficking efforts in the US, we must not only look at programs that enhance our ability to punish traffickers, but those that provide services to victims, including those that support vulnerable populations. For example, research shows that runaway and homeless youth are among most vulnerable populations to sex and labor trafficking. Yet, federal funding for runaway and homeless youth programs has been decreasing. The recently passed Preventing Sex Trafficking and and Strengthening Families Act of 2014 is promising in that it seeks to address early intervention and identification for vulnerable children. However, more can be done.. If we are going to really make a difference and combat human trafficking as much as possible, we must fund the efforts to do so more holistically, and stop cutting essential services for vulnerable populations, victims, and survivors.