At any given time, the U.S. Congress is working on legislation that would affect human trafficking from any number of angles. Polaris is active in coalitions supporting both structural overhauls of major systems, such as temporary work visas, and on individual, trafficking-specific bills.
Under current law, it is legal to set up a business and not disclose who actually owns it. This makes it hard to hold human traffickers accountable for their crimes. This is a particularly big problem in investigating and prosecuting massage parlor trafficking.
In July, a bipartisan group of lawmakers once again introduced the Visa Transparency Anti-Trafficking Act. This common-sense legislation is aimed at the system of temporary work visas, which is poorly designed and rife with trafficking and exploitation. This bill would give researchers, workers and NGOs more of the information necessary to keep traffickers from gaming the system.
Domestic workers comprise the highest number of victims of labor trafficking reported to the U.S.National Human Trafficking Hotline. This important legislation would go a long way toward providing these vital members of our economy the same protections as other members of the U.S. workforce. That alone would go a long way toward reducing trafficking of nannies, housekeepers, and others who work in our homes.
According to the best available research, virtually all survivors have some kind of criminal record as a direct result of their being sex or labor trafficked. Many states have begun to recognize the hypocrisy inherent in these records as well as the problems having a record poses for survivors seeking to heal and start over. But for inexplicable reasons, the U.S. Department of Justice has cut off a program that helped human trafficking survivors get legal representation and clear their criminal records. That’s bad policy and a bad message to send to survivors.
Protecting Guest Workers
The structure of many of the nation’s patchwork of temporary work visa program is so poorly designed that it virtually encourages human trafficking. The ILRWG is leading the way on reforming these programs and reducing the risk to workers seeking to come here legally to meet important needs in our economy. Until those programs are reformed, we should not expand the number of visas available. Currently, anti-trafficking advocates are worried that some in Congress will use end-of-the-year, must-pass budget bills to do so.