The United States enacted the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) in 2000. It was the first piece of legislation to address human trafficking. Since that time, the United States has monitored anti-trafficking efforts worldwide. Nations that fail to meet minimum standards set by the United States risk losing non-humanitarian financial aid from the federal government, the International Monetary Fund, and global banks. Yet, these minimum standards are not met by the United States when it comes to protecting American trafficking victims.
According to the TVPA, governments shall attempt to prevent human trafficking, punish traffickers, and protect people who have been trafficked. Protections, which are the focus of this article, may extend to a victim while she is being trafficked, at the time of her rescue, or after she has escaped from her trafficker. They are designed to make victims whole, self-sufficient and less vulnerable to re-victimization. Protections may include housing, food, clothing, cash allowances, medical care, psychological treatment, education, and job training.
Protections are funded by the TVPA and provided to international victims who are trafficked on American soil. The same is not true for American victims, despite the fact that estimates suggest there are far more citizen victims in the United States than there are foreign victims. Americans are specifically excluded by the federal government from receiving TVPA-funded protections and must look elsewhere for assistance. In this way, the United States has created a two-tier system of protection whereby international victims receive a wealth of resources and services while American victims receive little, if any, assistance.
The purpose of this article is to compare foreign and domestic victims, examine the protections each group receives, identify the disparities in protections for citizen victims, highlight inconsistencies in federal law and the practical enforcement of the law, and discuss the policy implications of having a two-tier system of protection for human trafficking victims in America.
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