The Trump administration on Sept. 21 said that, as part of its continued fight against human trafficking, it has awarded more than $100 million in grants to fund services and programs that combat what is described as modern-day slavery and provide assistance to trafficking victims across the United States.
The Justice Department (DOJ) grants were announced by Attorney General William Barr and President Donald Trump’s daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump, during a roundtable discussion in Atlanta. The funds are being steered to state, local, and tribal jurisdictions, victim service providers, and task forces across the country and will be used to support key research initiatives on human trafficking.
“I’m very proud that these resources are going to help law enforcement officers and victim services providers hold perpetrators accountable and give the victims of these crimes a place to turn for refuge and support,” Barr said during the roundtable.
The organizations and programs that are sharing the funding include ones that provide training and educational opportunities for victims, housing assistance, prevention and intervention services, and well as to law enforcement programs that identify victims and provide them with justice through the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers.
“It’s the administration’s largest-ever investment in Department of Justice grants to combat the scourge of human trafficking, arguably the greatest of human rights violations,” Ivanka Trump said.
Forced labor and human trafficking is estimated to be a $150 billion industry worldwide, according to the U.N.’s International Labour Organization.
The announcement follows an August event at which the DOJ said more than $35 million in housing grants would go to provide safe and stable housing for human trafficking survivors. The housing grants are part of the $100 million awarded by the administration.
Since taking office, President Trump has made fighting human trafficking a top priority of his administration. He signed an executive order in January aimed to eliminate human trafficking and online child exploitation in the United States, which requires resources to be directed into areas that would result in the prosecution of offenders, assist victims, and expand prevention education programs about the issue.
The president has also signed nine pieces of legislation into law to help target human trafficking.
His administration has also taken multiple crucial steps to tackle the issue. In a proclamation issued by Trump in January, the president noted that the multi-agency Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team initiative had more than doubled its convictions of human traffickers in its targeted districts.
Similarly, the Department of Homeland Security has initiated more than 800 investigations related to human trafficking, while the State Department has founded the Human Trafficking Expert Consultant Network, which brings together experts to inform its anti-trafficking policies and programs, he said.
About 24.9 million people around the world and in the United States, both adults and children, are trapped in some form of human trafficking, according to the White House, while about 1 in 800 people in the United States are living in “modern slavery,” according to 2018 data by the Walk Free Foundation. The phrase is a broad term used to describe victims of forced labor, sexual exploitation or servitude, and forced marriages, among numerous other abuses.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline stated it received 11,500 human trafficking reports in 2019, with sex trafficking being the most commonly reported type of trafficking. Between 2007 and 2019, the number of human trafficking situations identified through the hotline is 63,380.
“The scourge of human trafficking is the modern-day equivalent of slavery, brutally depriving victims of basic human rights and essential physical needs as it erodes their sense of dignity and self-worth,” Barr said in a statement.
The U.S. Marshals Service recently announced rescue efforts of missing children and arrests linked to human trafficking in Georgia and Ohio.
In late August, the agency said they had found 39 missing children in Georgia as part of an endangered and missing children mission called “Operation Not Forgotten.”
Law enforcement officials rescued 26 children, safely located 13 other missing children, and arrested nine people as part of a two-week operation in August in Atlanta and Macon, Georgia. The individuals were accused of offenses such as sex trafficking, parental kidnapping, registered sex offender violations, drugs, and weapons possession.
More recently, the U.S. Marshals Service announced that 35 children had been rescued in northeastern Ohio as part of “Operation Safety Net.” Officials said on Sept. 21 that the recovered children were between the ages of 13 and 18, and were considered missing or endangered. About 20 percent of those cases were tied to human trafficking, and were referred to a separate task force.
Mimi Nguyen-Ly, Jack Phillips, and Bowen Xiao contributed to this report.