Policy & Legislation

The landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 laid the groundwork for the federal response to human trafficking. In the years since, Congress has built on this foundation, honing and expanding the U.S. strategy to combat sex trafficking and labor trafficking through a holistic, multi-agency approach. Polaris works with allies to shape, support and share innovative state, federal and local laws and policies that are driven by data, based on survivor experience and focused on expanding accountability for sex and labor trafficking.


Congressional Priorities

Criminal Records Relief

By definition, human trafficking involves being forced, manipulated, or tricked into activities that a person would not otherwise do – such as selling sexual services or doing any kind of work without pay. Among the many risks victims of human trafficking experience is committing a crime as a consequence of their trafficking situation. Research finds that many trafficking survivors report having some kind of a criminal record as a result of being trafficked. Trafficking survivors should have access to a simple, dignified, and affordable process that allows them to fully clear their criminal records and move on with their lives.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), first enacted in 2000, is the national framework for the federal response to human trafficking. The law has been reauthorized and updated, five times, most recently in January 2019 with strong bipartisan support. In FY19, Congress appropriated $250 million toward these efforts. The TVPA is based on a three-pronged “3P” approach to fighting sex trafficking and labor trafficking – prevention, prosecution, protection.

Federal Anti-Trafficking Agencies

Responsibility for human trafficking is spread across federal agencies. For example, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) investigates the bulk of sex and labor trafficking cases involving foreign nationals, while the FBI takes the lead on investigating domestic minor sex trafficking cases through their Innocence Lost Initiative. The Justice Department leads federal prosecutions and funds state and local law enforcement agencies to form human trafficking task forces. Social services, awareness-raising, and prevention activities are also funded by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  HHS also funds the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline. 

Doing Business with the Federal Government 

Rules governing how the federal government spends money allow prohibit contracting with anyone engaged in human trafficking. The rules also require that anyone with a federal contract for more than $500,000 of goods or services have a plan in place to prevent trafficking. Federal contractors also have to certify that to the best of their knowledge their supply chain had not engaged in any trafficking-related activities. FAR 22.1704 provides the United States Government’s recourse in the event of a violation. FAR 52.222-50 outlines the United States Government’s zero-tolerance policy with regard to trafficking in persons.

Supply Chain Protections

Several federal laws are designed to reduce the profit motive for labor trafficking by barring import of goods made with trafficked labor. Customs and Facilitations and Trade Enforcement Act amended the prohibition on importing goods made with trafficked labor. Tariff Act of 1930 prohibits importing goods made with forced or indentured labor.

Additional Resources

Need help? Polaris operates the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline.