Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act: Still Work to be Done
On the one-year anniversary of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA), the legislation has yet to see full implementation. On Wednesday, May 25, 2016, four members of congress, Rep. Ann Wagner of Missouri (Republican), Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York (Democrat), Rep. Ted Poe of Texas (Republican) and Rep. Joyce Beatty of Ohio (Democrat), as well as advisor to the JVTA, Tina Frundt, Founder and Executive Director of Courtney’s House, held a press conference to discuss a letter that was sent to Attorney General Loretta Lynch in the Department of Justice. This letter submits questions about why certain provisions of the JVTA have not yet been implemented.
The JVTA calls not only to prosecute the traffickers, but also to prosecute buyers of trafficking victims. The legislation also treats trafficked commercial sex workers as they are: victims. Tina Frundt discussed how the bill is meant to educate people on signs of at-risk behavior and to prosecute those who engage in trafficking to end the demand for this industry.
The Department of Justice has yet to issue directives for the prosecution of the buyers of trafficking victims. The goal is to eradicate the demand for trafficking victims. The letter states that “to our knowledge, the Department of Justice has neglected to issue necessary directives and guidance crucial to implementing JVTA across the country.” Letter from Members of Congress to Attorney General Loretta Lynch (May 24, 2016). The JVTA also calls for a $5,000 fine for convicted traffickers and convicted buyers. This money is to be used to populate the Domestic Trafficking Victims Fund which would award grants to states for protection and assistance for trafficking victims as well as the development of prosecution programs. It is unclear if this fund has been established and why the department has not fined those convicted.
The JVTA also requires the Department of Justice to submit an annual report on rates of arrest, prosecutions, and convictions. The first report is due this spring but as of yet, it is unclear if the Department will issue any report. The goal of this report is to better assess where trafficking is occurring and how much it is occurring so that resources for prosecuting traffickers and services for the victims can be provided where they are needed. Rep. Poe discussed how the United States ranks countries on human trafficking and questioned how the United States would rank compared to the rest of the world if it had the data to include itself in these rankings.
Rep. Poe stated that this bill passed almost unanimously and desires to see the bill all the way through to full implementation. Hopefully this letter will encourage the Department of Justice to fully implement the JVTA.
By Megan Shuster
Megan is a second year student at The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of law. She is pursuing her J.D. and is in the Comparative and International Law Institute.