On October 15, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Secretary Chad Wolf announced the opening of the U.S. government’s first-ever integrated law enforcement operations center. This new center will directly target human trafficking and forced labor through federal criminal investigations, victim assistance efforts, intelligence analysis and outreach. The operation will focus on what they call the “4 Ps”: prevention, protection, prosecution and partnerships.
This action comes on the heels of several major pieces of legislation and executive orders by the Trump administration in an effort to combat human trafficking in the United States and abroad. In August, Trump approved a $35 million grant package which aided organizations that provide safe housing for victims of human trafficking. Back in January, on the 20th anniversary of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, Trump created the first White House position which focused solely on human trafficking. And on October 19, the administration announced the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, outlining a whole-of-government approach to combating modern slavery.
Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery which profits from the exploitation of vulnerable groups and it is among one of the fastest-growing criminal enterprises in the world. It is estimated that anywhere from 14,500 to 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the U.S. each year, not including the hundreds of thousands of victims already within our borders. The new Center for Countering Human Trafficking, run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and staffed by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), will provide comprehensive and robust tools to identify, disrupt, and dismantle human trafficking organizations operating within and across our borders.
The critical roles that ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) play in combating trafficking into the United States are often left out of the conversation surrounding immigration enforcement and border security. As more and more open borders and #AbolishICE advocates push for defunding these agencies, operations that target human trafficking will suffer. With the opening of this center and an increased budget approved by the Trump administration, these agencies will have greater influence and ability to effectively fight such heinous acts. Sex and labor trafficking not only imperil the lives of the victims, but also national security and the safety of Americans.