Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES
According to the State Department, each year an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders and forced into prostitution or to work in quarries, sweatshops and farms, as domestics or child soldiers. The United Nations says that human trafficking is now the third-largest source of income for organized crime, after arms and drugs. Our government estimates that more than half of all victims trafficked internationally are trafficked for sexual exploitation.
Up to 17,500 of these people - mostly young women - are brought into the United States annually. They are lured by promises of legitimate jobs, only to find themselves trapped in sexual slavery or other forms of involuntary servitude.
Until recently, victims have been afraid to come forward, fearful of criminal prosecution and deportation. But thanks to the 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act, sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith, New Jersey Republican, women who assist prosecutors can receive a special class of Visa - the T-Visa - to remain in the United States and receive the same services and counseling that are provided to refugees. This legislation is useful in combating the problem.
The Bush administration recently hosted the first-ever national training conference for law enforcement officials on human trafficking in Tampa, where the president announced several noteworthy initiatives - including $14 million to law enforcement to help human trafficking victims, $4.5 million for organizations to assist victims, a Florida state law criminalizing human trafficking, new training resources and new interagency cooperation to ensure the timely delivery of benefits and services to victims. …