Last week, the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST) coalition pressed Congress to increase funding for critical anti-trafficking programs both at home and overseas. Coalition member organizations work together to determine a comprehensive package of the most crucial funding requests to improve U.S. government responses to trafficking related to the protection of victims and survivors, prevention of trafficking, and prosecution of traffickers.
The Human Trafficking Institute joined ATEST in 2018. ATEST is a U.S.-based coalition that advocates for solutions to prevent and end all forms of human trafficking and forced labor around the world. ATEST promotes lasting solutions to prevent forced labor and sex trafficking, hold perpetrators accountable, ensure justice for victims, and empower survivors with tools for recovery. The collective experience of member organizations in implementing programs at home and abroad gives ATEST an unparalleled breadth and depth of expertise that we leverage to provide guidance to Congress on various policy recommendations, including the annual appropriations process.
Key requests for 2022 include:
- Additional funding for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide victim services and support task forces. Task forces are comprised of law enforcement and local service providers working specifically on anti-trafficking efforts. This partnership is key to developing and implementing a victim-centered and trauma-informed approach to identify victims of trafficking, investigate and prosecute cases, and provide comprehensive services to victims. Victim service providers across the country have reported an increased caseload and significant challenges providing services due to the COVID-19 crisis. In 2020, the National Human Trafficking Hotline recorded a 40 percent increase in crisis cases reported during the first phase of the pandemic compared to prior years. ATEST recommended an increase in funding to meet the growing need for services for victims and survivors, as economic vulnerabilities continue through the pandemic and beyond.
- Increased funding for DOJ’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, a dedicated national unit that houses the government’s top legal experts on prosecuting human trafficking cases. Providing this office with adequate resources and support is critical to holding traffickers accountable for their crimes.
- Additional funding for the Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Human Trafficking (J/TIP) to assist other countries in their efforts to fight trafficking. These grants provide specialized training for law enforcement officers to recognize trafficking and forced labor, conduct investigations, assist with prosecutions, and support victims. As more people are vulnerable to trafficking during the COVID-19 crisis, additional funding and support are needed to meet the increased need for victim and prevention services.
- Significant additional resources for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to match the increased number of trafficking victims that require comprehensive, trauma-informed, and gender-specific services. Also, there has been a large disparity in funding provided for DOJ and HHS victim services programs. To adequately support victims and survivors through their entire path to justice and restoration, ATEST recommended HHS funding levels be increased to match DOJ’s funding levels.
ATEST advocates Congress for these funding requests through four Appropriations subcommittees that are responsible for the various U.S. government anti-trafficking programs: State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS); Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (LHHS); Department of Homeland Security (DHS); and Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS). To read the full letters submitted to Congress, click here.