The U.S. government is committed to ending human trafficking and is launching a new center dedicated to combating this horrific crime.
“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery,” said Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf on October 20 at the launch of the Center for Countering Human Trafficking. “There is no other way to say it.”
The center is the U.S. government’s first integrated law enforcement operations center focused on human trafficking to support federal criminal, civil and administrative investigations, victim assistance efforts and intelligence analysis, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
It will also include “Blue Campaign” outreach and training operations to counter human trafficking, which includes both forced labor and sex trafficking. Sixteen different DHS components and headquarters offices will participate in the center for a holistic approach to ending all forms of human trafficking.
The center’s operation builds on work the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, part of DHS, has been doing to combat human trafficking since 2004.
In fiscal year 2019 alone, ICE initiated 1,024 cases related to human trafficking. ICE cases resulted in 2,197 criminal arrests, and ICE identified more than 400 victims of human trafficking.
Criminal organizations often target the most vulnerable members of a community and treat them as commodities rather than human beings, said Tony Pham, the acting director of ICE.
The Center for Countering Human Trafficking aims to put an end to human trafficking by using DHS’s “victims first” approach. This focus balances the identification, rescue and support of victims with the investigation and prosecution of traffickers.
ICE’s Homeland Security Investigation team will continue to manage human trafficking investigations. The workforce is considered a global leader in investigating human trafficking and sexual exploitation cases, and for bringing offenders to justice, says DHS.
“Human trafficking is one of the greatest human rights abuses of our time,” concluded Wolf, “and we will not stop fighting to eradicate it until every person is safe and free.”