Human Trafficking Into and Within the United States: A Review of the Literature. Trafficking into the United States


The data and methodologies for estimating the prevalence of human trafficking globally and nationally are not well developed, and therefore estimates have varied widely and changed significantly over time.  The U.S. State Department has estimated that approximately 600,000 to 800,000 victims are trafficked annually across international borders worldwide and approximately half of these victims are younger than age 18 (U.S. Department of State, 2005, 2006, 2007).  Additionally, the U.S. State Department has estimated that 80 percent of internationally trafficked victims are female and 70 percent are trafficked into the sex industry (U.S. Department of State, 2005).  In comparison, the International Labor Organization has estimated that at any given time, 12.3 million people are in forced labor, bonded labor, forced child labor, sexual servitude, and involuntary servitude (International Labor Organization, 2005).  Other estimates of global labor exploitation range from 4 million to 27 million (U.S. Department of State, 2006, 2007).

Initial estimates cited in the TVPA suggested that approximately 50,000 individuals were trafficked into the United States each year.  This estimate was subsequently reduced to 18,00020,000 in the U.S. Department of States June 2003 Trafficking in Persons Report, and in its 2005 and 2006 reports, altered again to an estimate of 14,50017,500 individuals trafficked annually into the United States.

According to official administrative data, since 2001, the U.S. Department of Justice has prosecuted 360 defendants in human trafficking cases, and secured 238 convictions (U.S. Department of Justice, 2007).

Additionally, as of June 2007, 1,264 foreign nationals (adults and children) have been certified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as victims of human trafficking, eligible to receive public benefits.  Of these, 1,153 are adults, with 69 percent female victims.  Of the 111 minor victims certified, 82 percent were female.  For some victim service providers and NGOs, these figures are not considered representative of the actual number of human trafficking victims in the country.  They believe that many victims go unreported (and uncounted) because they do not want to cooperate with law enforcement and, therefore, are never reported to authorities or receive Federal assistance (Caliber Associates, 2007).

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