Statement from Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband Commemorating the Twentieth Anniversary of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act

Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Eric Dreiband issued the following statement today commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act:

Twenty years ago, on Oct. 28, 2000, Congress enacted the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), condemning human trafficking as a “contemporary manifestation of slavery” that is “abhorrent” to our ideals of freedom, human dignity, and unalienable rights.

On Oct. 19, 2020, I was pleased to participate in the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. During that meeting, 20 agency officials across the federal government, including the Department of Justice, explained how the federal government is combatting the modern-day slavery of human trafficking.

Even after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished state-sanctioned slavery in 1865, many ostensibly free citizens endured racial violence, abuses of authority, and conditions of involuntary servitude that both perpetuated badges and incidents of slavery for generations to come and violated the Thirteenth Amendment.  

Since its founding in 1957, the Civil Rights Division has fought to uphold guarantees of individual rights, freedom, and equality for all, including the prohibitions against involuntary servitude and slavery that the division vigorously enforced for decades before passage of the TVPA.

Accordingly, when the TVPA extended the reach of these involuntary servitude statutes and established vital victim protections and detection partnerships, the Civil Rights Division answered this call to action and led rapidly expanding nationwide anti-trafficking efforts. 

Before the TVPA, the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney’s Offices charged, on average, fewer than four involuntary servitude cases a year, totaling 18 such cases over the five preceding years. The TVPA’s expanded criminal prohibitions, victim protections, and proactive detection programs sparked a surge in trafficking cases that rapidly intensified the need for specialized anti-trafficking expertise to guide increasingly complex cases. 

The Department of Justice again answered the call by creating its specialized Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit within the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division. The Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit is known as the “HTPU” and it consolidated the department’s anti-trafficking expertise. The HTPU leads the department’s nationwide enforcement efforts, guides the development of novel, complex, multi-jurisdictional, and international trafficking cases, and strengthened strategic partnerships.

Creation of this specialized Unit has proven vital to the department’s unprecedented anti-trafficking achievements since passage of the TVPA.  In the six years after HTPU’s inception, trafficking cases involving forced labor, sex trafficking of adults, and transnational trafficking rose over 115 percent, as convictions in such cases rose 83 percent. Since HTPU’s formation in 2007, HTPU and U.S. Attorney’s Offices have brought 945 such cases against 2,048 defendants, securing 1,747 convictions. In the two decades since passage of the TVPA, the department has initiated 1,069 such cases against 2,408 defendants and secured 1,986 convictions, all in addition to impressive numbers of child sex trafficking cases brought by the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney’s Offices. 

These cases have vindicated the rights of thousands of victims. A few examples illustrate the point:  victims whose rights the department vindicated include a young West African girl held in domestic servitude for over sixteen years; an African-American man with an intellectual disability who was compelled into forced labor in a restaurant, without pay, through verbal abuse, racial epithets, and brutal assaults; and Guatemalan young men and boys who traffickers lured on false promises, then forced, under threats of harm to their families, to perform agricultural labor in grueling conditions for minimal pay. Our prosecutions also restored the lives of young women from large U.S. cities, small suburbs, rural communities, and tribal areas who criminal traffickers coerced into commercial sex by manipulating the victims’ dependence on addictive drugs.

HTPU has launched groundbreaking interagency enforcement initiatives that produced dozens of complex, high-impact cases to dismantle notorious transnational trafficking enterprises.

The Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team (ACTeam) Initiative has markedly increased trafficking prosecutions in participating districts, while the U.S.-Mexico Bilateral Human Trafficking Enforcement Initiative has resulted in over 270 U.S. convictions, and dozens of related Mexican state and federal prosecutions, against brutal sex trafficking enterprises that compelled hundreds of vulnerable victims into prostitution. 

HTPU has further accelerated nationwide anti-trafficking efforts by disseminating specialized expertise, training, and strategic guidance to thousands of anti-trafficking partners each year, strengthening victim-centered, trauma-informed strategies, chairing the INTERPOL Human Trafficking Experts Group, and advancing departmental anti-trafficking policy priorities.

While we proudly celebrate these achievements, we humbly redouble our resolve to tackle the challenges ahead. We are increasingly leveraging technology-enhanced, intelligence-driven targeting and analytics to combat trafficking threats involving encrypted communications, cryptocurrency, and dark web platforms. We are expanding cross-disciplinary partnerships with experts in countering related money laundering, transnational organized crime, narcotics, human rights, immigration, and labor violations. And we are increasingly incorporating the expertise of survivors themselves to make our anti-trafficking strategies more effective than ever before.

On this twentieth anniversary of the TVPA, we recommit to our mission of eradicating human trafficking and modern-day slavery, and we renew our unflagging resolve to work tirelessly to deliver on the promises of unalienable rights, fundamental freedoms, and human dignity for all.

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    From fiscal years 2010 through 2018, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) obligated over $11 billion through four grant programs that fund state and local hazard mitigation efforts. FEMA awarded about 88 percent of this amount through the two grant programs that fund hazard mitigation post-disaster. State and local officials from selected jurisdictions reported challenges with FEMA's hazard mitigation grant programs. Specifically, officials GAO interviewed from 10 of the 12 jurisdictions said grant application processes were complex and lengthy. To address this, FEMA officials augmented guidance and began monitoring application review time frames for one program and said they intend to assess two other programs to identify opportunities to streamline. However, they did not have a documented plan for doing so. By developing and implementing a plan to identify ways to streamline applications and reviews for all four programs, FEMA could reduce barriers to investments in hazard mitigation. Officials from eight of the 12 jurisdictions also cited challenges with applicants' technical capacity to successfully apply for grants. To address this, FEMA developed training and guidance, but GAO found that these resources are listed on different parts of its website and can be difficult for state and local officials to locate. Creating a centralized inventory of resources could improve applicant capacity to successfully develop mitigation projects and apply for grants. Examples of Hazard Mitigation Projects FEMA has assessed some effects of grant-funded hazard mitigation projects, but could expand efforts and better share results. FEMA uses benefit-cost analysis, which estimates the benefits over the life of a project, and post-disaster loss avoidance studies, which estimate project benefits from actual hazard events, to assess project effects. However, the loss avoidance studies have been limited to hurricanes, floods, and tornados, and have not assessed wildfires, winter storms, or other disasters. FEMA officials stated that they would like to expand these studies but do not have specific plans to do so. In addition, FEMA requires some states to assess the effectiveness of their mitigation projects, but does not share these studies. Developing a plan to conduct loss avoidance studies for other hazards and sharing the state studies could help FEMA and stakeholders make better informed mitigation investment decisions. The rising number of natural disasters and increasing reliance on federal assistance are key sources of federal fiscal exposure. FEMA has four grant programs to increase disaster resilience through hazard mitigation projects. The Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act, 2019, included a provision for GAO to review the federal response to disasters in 2018. This report addresses 1) FEMA's use of grants to support hazard mitigation; 2) challenges reported by selected jurisdictions applying for grants; and 3) how FEMA has assessed the effects of its hazard mitigation projects and shared the results. GAO analyzed FEMA's grant data for fiscal years 2010 through 2018 to capture the most complete recent data, conducted nongeneralizable site visits with 12 state and local jurisdictions selected to capture a range of grant funding levels and hazards, reviewed FEMA grant documents, and interviewed FEMA mitigation officials. GAO is making six recommendations, including that FEMA develop a plan to assess and streamline its hazard mitigation grant programs, create a centralized inventory of related resources, develop a plan to conduct more loss avoidance studies, and share state studies on hazard mitigation effectiveness. The Department of Homeland Security concurred with our recommendations. For more information, contact Chris Currie at (404) 679-1875 or CurrieC@gao.gov.
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  • Three Foreign Nationals Charged with Conspiring to Provide Material Support to ISIS
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department announced today that three Sri Lankan citizens have been charged with terrorism offenses, including conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization (ISIS).  The men were part of a group of ISIS supporters which called itself “ISIS in Sri Lanka.”  That group is responsible for the 2019 Easter attacks in the South Asian nation of Sri Lanka, which killed 268 people, including five U.S. citizens, and injured over 500 others, according to a federal criminal complaint unsealed today.
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  • Genetic Services: Information on Genetic Counselor and Medical Geneticist Workforces
    In U.S GAO News
    Genetic counselors and medical geneticists are two groups who typically work together to provide genetic services, such as genetic testing and counseling. Genetic counselors have at least a master's degree in genetic counseling and assess individuals or families with or at risk for genetic conditions, and provide counseling and education on test results. Medical geneticists are typically physicians who specialize in medical genetics and genomics, and provide comprehensive genetic services, ranging from diagnosis and interpretation of test results to the management and treatment of genetic conditions. GAO's analysis of data from the professional organizations representing this workforce shows the number of genetic counselors certified to provide genetic counseling services has nearly doubled since 2009, and is projected to continue growing. The data show there were approximately 4,700 certified genetics counselors in the United States in 2019. The data also show the number of new medical geneticists has increased modestly since 2009, and the total number certified in the United States was approximately 1,240 as of April 2020. There is no widely accepted measure for how many genetic counselors and medical geneticists should be available; however, representatives from professional organizations GAO interviewed stated that demand for genetic services is rising. Data from the professional organizations representing the genetic counselor and medical geneticist workforces, as well as data from the Census Bureau, also show the number of genetic counselors and medical geneticists varied across states. States averaged seven genetic counselors per 500,000 people in 2019 and two medical geneticists per 500,000 people in 2020. Genetic counselors and medical geneticists primarily practice in hospital settings. Distribution of Genetic Counselors by State, 2019 Advances in genetic technology and research have increased the amount of information available to individuals and providers, and may have increased the demand for genetic services. The medical genetics workforce—which includes genetic counselors and medical geneticists—plays an essential role in providing access to genetic services. Some studies have identified concerns with the size of the medical genetics workforce and its ability to meet the current and future demand for genetic services. A House Committee on Appropriations report included a provision for GAO to conduct an analysis of the medical genetics workforce. This report describes, among other objectives, what is known about changes in the size of the genetic counselor and medical geneticist workforces; and what is known about the geographic distribution of these workforces. GAO reviewed relevant studies of the genetic counselor and medical geneticist workforces; interviewed agency officials and professional organizations representing each workforce; and analyzed the most recent available data on the size and distribution of each workforce in the United States, as well as population data from the Census Bureau. GAO provided a draft of this report to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor. The Department of Health and Human Services provided technical comments, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact James Cosgrove at (202) 512-7114 or CosgroveJ@gao.gov.
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  • Blue Bell Creameries Ordered To Pay $17.25 Million In Criminal Penalties In Connection With 2015 Listeria Contamination
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    A federal court in Texas sentenced ice cream manufacturer Blue Bell Creameries L.P. to pay $17.25 million in criminal penalties for shipments of contaminated products linked to a 2015 listeriosis outbreak, the Justice Department announced today.
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  • Aviation Consumer Protection: Increased Transparency Could Help Build Confidence in DOT’s Enforcement Approach
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Transportation's (DOT) enforcement approach generally uses a range of methods to encourage compliance with consumer protection regulations, including conducting outreach and information-sharing, issuing guidance, and sending non-punitive warning letters for those violations that do not rise to the level that warrants a consent order. DOT usually enters into consent orders when it has evidence of systematic or egregious violations. Such orders are negotiated between DOT and violators (e.g., airlines) and typically include civil penalties. DOT officials see benefits from using consent orders, which can include credits for actions taken to benefit consumers or to improve the travel environment. Annual consent orders increased from 20 in 2008 to 62 in 2012, but then generally declined to a low of eight in 2019. GAO's analysis showed that the decline in consent orders was most marked among those issued against non-air carrier entities (e.g., travel agents), those addressing certain types of violations such as advertising, and orders containing smaller civil penalty amounts. DOT officials said that the agency did not change its enforcement practices during this time. Examples of DOT's Compliance Promotion and Enforcement Efforts Airlines and consumer advocates GAO interviewed said that DOT's enforcement process lacked transparency, including into how investigations were conducted and resolved and about when and why DOT takes enforcement actions. Moreover, DOT publishes limited information related to the results of its enforcement activities, notably information about the number and type of consumer complaints it receives as well as issued consent orders. DOT does not publish other information such as aggregated data about the number or nature of open and closed investigations or issued warning letters. DOT is taking some actions to increase transparency, such as developing a publicly available handbook, but none of those actions appears to fully address the identified information gaps such as information about the results of investigations. Some other federal agencies provide more information about enforcement activities, including publishing warning letters or data about such letters. Publishing additional information about how DOT conducts investigations and enforcement, and about the results of enforcement activities, could improve stakeholders' understanding of DOT's process and help build confidence in its approach. Consumer advocates, airlines, and other stakeholders have raised concerns about how DOT enforces aviation consumer protection requirements. DOT has the authority to enforce requirements protecting consumers against unfair and deceptive practices, discrimination on the basis of disability or other characteristics, and other harms. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 contained a provision for GAO to review DOT's enforcement of consumer protection requirements. This report examines: (1) DOT's approach to the enforcement of aviation consumer protections and the results of its efforts, and (2) selected stakeholder views on this approach and steps DOT has taken to address identified concerns. GAO reviewed DOT data on consent orders and consumer complaints; reviewed other DOT documentation related to its enforcement program; interviewed DOT officials and selected industry and consumer stakeholders, including advocacy organizations, which we identified from prior work and a literature review; and identified leading practices for regulatory enforcement. GAO is making two recommendations, including: that DOT publish information describing the process it uses to enforce consumer protections, and that DOT take additional steps to provide transparency into the results of its efforts. DOT concurred with these recommendations. For more information, contact Andrew Von Ah at (202) 512-2834 or vonaha@gao.gov.
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  • Readout of Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco’s First Day
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    Today, Lisa O. Monaco was sworn in as the 39th Deputy Attorney General (DAG) of the United States. She returns to the Department of Justice where she first arrived as an intern 26 years ago, and went on to hold a variety of leadership roles at both the Department and the FBI. DAG Monaco held a series of meetings with DOJ staff and received briefings on the January 6th Capitol Attack investigation and on national security. In an all hands meeting with her immediate staff, DAG Monaco reiterated her commitment to reaffirming the Department’s foundational mission and core values, pursuing the Constitution’s promise of equal justice, and ensuring the safety of all who call America home. Late in the day she sent an email to the DOJ workforce thanking them for their dedication, and conveying how honored she is to serve alongside them.   
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  • Priority Open Recommendations: Nuclear Regulatory Commission
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In April 2020, GAO identified seven priority recommendations for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Since then, NRC implemented one of these recommendations by issuing a risk management strategy that addresses key elements foundational to effectively managing cybersecurity risks. The remaining six priority recommendations involve the following areas: addressing the security of radiological sources. improving the reliability of cost estimates. improving strategic human capital management. NRC's continued attention to these issues could lead to significant improvements in government operations. Why GAO Did This Study Priority open recommendations are the GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional and/or executive branch decision-making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015, GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations. For more information, contact Mark Gaffigan at (202) 512-3841 or gaffiganm@gao.gov.
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  • West Virginia Woman Sentenced for Willful Retention of Top Secret National Defense Information and International Parental Kidnapping
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    Elizabeth Jo Shirley, of Hedgesville, West Virginia, was sentenced today to 97 months of incarceration for unlawfully retaining documents containing national defense information and 36 months of incarceration for international parental kidnapping. Shirley, 47, pleaded guilty to one count of willful retention of national defense information and one count of international parental kidnapping in July 2020. Shirley admitted to unlawfully retaining a National Security Agency (NSA) document containing information classified at the Top Secret/Secret Compartmented Information (TS/SCI) level relating to the national defense that outlines intelligence information regarding a foreign government’s military and political issues. Shirley also admitted to removing her child, of whom she was the non-custodial parent, to Mexico with the intent to obstruct the lawful exercise of the custodial father’s parental rights.
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    The Justice Department announced today a settlement agreement with the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education to resolve the department’s investigation into the Rowan-Salisbury School System’s (District) programs for its English learner students. The department’s investigation found system-wide failures to provide these students with the instruction and support they need to learn English and fully participate in school. The department conducted its investigation under the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974.
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