The Legality of Human Trafficking

Legal Actions Related To Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery where individuals benefit financially from the control and exploitation of others. Oftentimes victims do not know how to get out or know of resources that can hold their traffickers accountable. The US government categorizes human trafficking into:

  • Sex trafficking– where a commercial sex act is prompted using fraud or force, or where the individual induced to perform such an act is under the age of 18 years.
  • Labor trafficking– the enrollment, transportation, harboring, provision, or obtaining of individuals for labor by fraud or coercion with the aim of subjection to involuntary serfdom, peonage, or debt bondage.

However, it’s worth noting that you don’t need to be physically transported from one location to another for the offense to fall within these definitions.

Human Trafficking Statistics

Federal Anti-Trafficking Laws

Federal laws that apply to human trafficking cases include, but are not limited to:

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 which is a comprehensive legislation that offers a three-pronged strategy that includes prevention, protection, and prosecution of human trafficking crimes.

The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015  which is a law that fortifies services for trafficking victims. The bill made various amendments to human trafficking laws, including the creation of a survivor-led U.S. Advisory Council, criminal liability of buyers of commercial sex from trafficking victims, and new directives for the enactment of the national strategy for battling human trafficking.

Legal Recourse for Survivors of Human Trafficking

Trafficking victims have an extensive range of civil legal rights depending on the circumstances and trafficking situation endured.

Rights Enforcement

Under the federal legislation, Survivors of human trafficking have the legal right to:

– Be accurately notified in a timely fashion of court or parole proceedings, and the    release or escape of the accused

– Receive full and timely compensation and restitution for unpaid wages

– Have proceedings that are free from unreasonable delays

– Be treated with fairness, respect, and dignity

State law may afford more rights and protections.

Family law

Survivors have the right to protection or a restraining order that directs the trafficker to stay away from the accuser and return any possessions. If the survivor is related to the trafficker, they have the right to separation, divorce, guardianship, child custody, or adoption.

Employment law

Human trafficking violates the Fair Labor Standards Act. As such, one has rights to claims under the state or local minimum wage laws or contract laws. If one has been subjected to discrimination or harassment in the workplace, they can file a lawsuit with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. However, for farm workers, the rules are slightly different as they were excluded from the FLSA until 1996. Overtime pay is still not entirely applicable to farmworkers. It is often difficult to correctly address employment abuses in agriculture but, farmworkers still rely on some of the provisions of the FLSA. For more information about farmworkers and their rights click here.

Immigration Reliefs or Repatriation

Several immigration options have been created precisely for trafficking survivors who are not United States Citizens. They include continued presence, T Visa, U Visa, and special immigration juvenile status among others. A T Visa allows human trafficking victims to stay in the United States and work with law enforcement authorities in investigating or prosecuting human trafficking cases. A U Visa gives immigrant protection to crime victims who have experienced substantial mental or physical abuse as a result of the crime.

Where to Find Help

The human trafficking legal representation might include domestic violence agencies, general legal aid agencies, specialized legal service organizations, or public defenders. Some legal organizations such as the Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center and Lawyers Without Borders among others offer pro bono services and activist help. In Chicago, The Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago and The Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation are resources for trafficked persons.

Human trafficking is a serious offense and suspects should face aggressive prosecution. Nevertheless, it’s everyone’s responsibility to raise awareness to support trafficking victims and combat this global epidemic.

Author Bio:

Brian Kent is a partner at He graduated with a law degree from Philadelphia’s Temple University, and served as a criminal prosecutor in the Sex Crimes Unit of Montgomery County’s District Attorney’s Office.


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