Thursday, October 9, 2014

Adolescents & the Border Crisis, Part 1: Unaccompanied Minors and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act

Since October, nearly 63,000 youth have been apprehended attempting to enter into the United States through the Mexican border (Park, 2014). Since 2011, the number of children from Central America attempting to enter America has doubled each year (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR], 2014). These children, labeled either unaccompanied minors (UAM) or unaccompanied alien children (UAC), are coming to the U.S. primarily from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. They are frequently coming in an attempt to escape poverty, sexual assault, violence from gangs, kidnapping, or murder. This multi-part series of will explore the impact of border migration by unaccompanied children and youth on social policy in the U.S.

The majority of the debate in Congress and among the public has surrounded the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection and Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), first passed in 2000 and reauthorized most recently in 2013. This legislation protects survivors of labor and sex trafficking in the U.S. and imposes criminal sanctions against both international and domestic traffickers. A clause added in 2008 allows UACs who enter the U.S. from non-bordering countries (other than Mexico and Canada) to not face immediate deportation, but rather to be offered the opportunity to see a judge in a deportation hearing.  This clause was added to better identify and protect child survivors of trafficking in other countries who were then brought to the U.S. from the southern border. It also identifies resources for survivors, as well as agencies responsible for providing these services.

In the ongoing debate over the border crisis, many have been quick to blame the TVPRA for the influx in UACs entering the U.S. However, due to their lack of protection under the TVPRA and inadequate screening methods, the majority of apprehended Mexican children are determined to not fit the criteria needed for asylum. These youth are generally deported back to Mexico within a few days, forcing them to again face the many dangers they sought to escape.

UAC at border patrol facility (Photo: Twitter/JefferyGuterman)

For this reason Mexican youth in particular are especially vulnerable to trafficking for sex or labor.  Mexican youth are often recruited by gangs to work in the human smuggling industry, and traffickers know that if youth are apprehended they will be quickly released and can start working again within days (UNHCR, 2014). 

There have been many bills proposed to address the UAC crisis, a majority of which  seek to amend the TVPRA so that all youth who attempt to enter the United States without proper documentation are deported promptly (in the same manner as Mexican youth).  This short-sighted response to a massive global problem is not a solution. Rather than remove critical protections for some of the world’s most vulnerable children, efforts should instead focus on addressing the issues forcing children to flee their homes in the first place.  Since the majority of children are fleeing due to violence and poverty, the United States should provide aid to address gang violence and corruption in Central American governments. Studies have shown that children who are attempting to escape violence in their countries come to America as a last resort; they often move around within their country or other countries in Central America before they are forced to come to America to escape the gangs that follow them (Kennedy, 2014).  Providing safe homes or spaces for these children in their countries would dramatically decrease the amount of UACs seeking to enter the U.S.  By jeopardizing the legal protections available to UACs, we are increasing the risk of unjust deportations, which could mean that we are sending children to their traffickers, abusers, and their deaths. 

Contact your representative and let them know that they should not support proposed legislation to amend the TVPRA. 

Sign the petition:

- Caitlin Gallacher, ChildRight: NY Intern 


Kennedy, E. (2014).  No childhood here: Why central American children are fleeing their homes.  American Immigration Council.  Retrieved from

Park, H. (2014). Q. and A. Children at the Border.  Retrieved from

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). (2014).  Children on the run: Unaccompanied children leaving Central American and Mexico and the need for international protection.  Retrieved from

Friday, September 12, 2014

Despite High Rating, U.S. has Room for Improvement

The United States Department of State released the 2014 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report in June, 2014.  This annual report places each country into one of four tiers based on the countries’ efforts to maintain compliance with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act: Minimum Standards for the Elimination of Trafficking in Persons.  In the 2014 TIP Report, the United States ranks on Tier 1, the highest tier possible.  While the United States has made some great advancement in the past years in responding to human trafficking, there continue to be areas of great concern. 

In 2013 the FBI was significantly less likely to open a case on a perpetrator of labor trafficking of adults or minors, or an adult sex trafficking case, than they were to open a case of female minor sex trafficking.  Similarly, service providers and law enforcement across the country continue to focus the majority of their resources on responding to minor female sex trafficking survivors, at times to the detriment of victims of other forms of trafficking.  Additionally, services for male and LGBTQ trafficking survivors are severely lacking across the country, especially in the area of housing.  Survivors of all forms of trafficking - regardless their gender identity or sexual orientation - should be afforded the protections they are entitled to according to the TVPA.  Because these populations are perpetually underserved, it is also necessary that programs and funding include resources specifically for survivors of labor trafficking as well as LGBTQ and male survivors, particularly in regards to emergency shelter and long-term housing.

Currently, 42 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws that protect minor sex trafficking survivors by requiring no proof of force, fraud, or coercion, and 18 states, including New York and Illinois have enacted ‘Safe Harbor’ laws.  Despite this, a reported 579 youth under the age of 18 were arrested for prostitution or solicitation in 2013 (U.S. Department of State, 2014).  While this is a decrease of approximately 25% from the previous year, it is appalling that children and youth survivors continue to be criminalized instead of being protected and provided with services.  The United States government urgently needs to provide resources and training to all levels of law enforcement on the issue of sex and labor trafficking of minors to end this violation of their rights.  Training should include information about the identification of male, female and transgender minors in sex and labor trafficking situations and the protections available to survivors under the TVPA and local state laws.

A vast majority of trafficked youth have had contact with the child welfare system.  However, there is virtually no systematic screening of children and youth for trafficking by child welfare agencies across the country.  Through our ChildRight: New York project, IOFA is creating a screening tool to be used by child welfare agencies across New York State to screen minors for trafficking.  Federal programs should require child welfare agencies in each state to screen the children and youth they encounter for sex and labor trafficking. With standardized screening mechanisms in place, child welfare agencies would be better able to identify minor victims, offer the tailored services survivors need, and more accurately quantify the number of minor victims in the United States.

In 2013 the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) decreased its funding for anti-trafficking tasks forces across the country.  These Task Forces are a unique model that mandates collaboration between various agencies, including law enforcement and service providing organizations.  The loss of funding to these programs will negatively impact survivors who rely on these collaborations and enhanced coordination to adequately meet their needs.  Therefore, federal funds must prioritize long-term services and sustainable collaboration between agencies.  Additionally, the DOJ should reinstate funding to these task forces and monitor their efforts to foster strong regional collaborations.

To read the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report, click here.  To learn more about what the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report means for the United States, please see the Freedom Network’s comments on the report. 

- Caitlin Gallacher, ChildRight: NY Intern


U.S Department of State. (2014). Trafficking in Persons Report: June 2014.  Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

U.S Department of State, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. (2011).  Trafficking victims protection act: Minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons.  Retrieved from

Friday, August 15, 2014

Legislation Aims to Address Trafficking in Supply Chains

In addition to the chocolate and make-up industries – as discussed in the April 11th blog post – many other industries make millions, if not billions, of dollars from the production of commodities using forced labor throughout the supply chain.
This June, The Guardian newspaper released an article exposing the modern-day slavery used to procure shrimp for major grocery stores in the U.S. and around the world (Hodal, Kelly & Lawrence, 2014). Shrimp is only one of many products sold cheaply to consumers at the expense of exploited and trafficked laborers. Worldwide the use of labor trafficking or forced labor results in an estimated $51 billion of profits annually (International Labor Organization, 2014).  The United States is the largest importer of goods in the world but, despite this, there is little transparency of the supply chains that major companies use to move their products from production to our shelves.  
Thai fishmonger sorts shrimp. Photograph: Barbara Walton/EPA
The process involved in procuring a product includes a complex system of supplies, contractors, and workers. As it stands, this production maze makes it next to impossible for consumers to know if a product they are buying has been touched by human trafficking. While there have been moves from various agencies and even states (notably California) to highlight company supply chain practices, until recently there was no proposed federal legislation that would require companies to be accountable for their supply chain process. 

Representative Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY).  Photograph: Congressional Pictorial Directory
On June 11th, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) introduced the Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking Act of 2014  (H.R. 4842). Building on key elements of the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2012, this proposed legislation intends to require major companies in the U.S. to disclose annually what steps they are taking to identify and prevent human trafficking, slavery, and child labor in their global supply chains.  Specifically, this legislation would require major companies with annual worldwide global receipts over $100 million to disclose clearly on their company website their processes for identifying and addressing any forced labor in their supply chains.  This would include disclosure of the company’s current polices on auditing suppliers for evidence of forced labor, training about issues related to human trafficking for employees who have direct responsibility for supply chain management, and risk assessment (Wokaty, 2014).  Under this bill, The Department of Labor would also publish on their website a list of the top 100 companies adhering to the supply chain labor standards so businesses with progressive practices would be recognized for their efforts. Unlike current standards, such as the recognition of Fair Trade products, evaluation in this ranking system would be required for all major companies, and would be complied by the Secretary of Labor in consultation with the Secretary of State as well as other Federal and international agencies. 
If passed, this bill would represent a major step forward in the global response to modern slavery. It would allow consumers to research which companies are, or are not, taking steps to address human trafficking. Consumers would be empowered to purchase goods which have been produced without trafficking, and through these decisions they would be able to support businesses with responsible anti-trafficking practices. The bill would allow investors to better understand the risks in investing in certain companies, and enable them to make educated decisions regarding their portfolios. It would further create space for better discourse between companies and advocates about strategies that businesses could implement to identify and eradicate suppliers who use human trafficking and slave labor from their supply chain. 
-Caitlin Gallacher, IOFA ChildRight: NY Intern

For more information about the Business Supply Chain Transparency of Trafficking and Slavery Act, please refer to the following sources:
Fitzpatrick, T. (2014, June 12).  New Legislation Could Help Consumers and Investors Take a Stand Against Slavery.  Retrieved from 
Hodal, K., Kelly, C., & Lawrence, F. (2014, June 10).  Revealed: Asian slave labor producing prawns for supermarkets in US, UK. The Guardian.  Retrieved from 
International Labor Organization (2014).  Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour.  Geneva, Switzerland: International Labor Office.
Lagon, M. (2014, June 27).  Modern slavery will continue if corporations keep passing the buck.  The Guardian.  Retrieved from 
Morosi, M. (2014, June 12).  Maloney targets slavery, human trafficking and child labor with bipartisan supply chain transparency bill.  Retrieved from 
U.S. House. 113th Congress, 2nd Session.  H.R. 4842, Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act of 2014. Washington, Government Printing Office, 2014. 
Wokaty, J.  (2014, June 12). Investors welcome federal bill calling for corporate disclosures on trafficking and slavery risks.  Retrieved from 
For more information about the California Transparency in Supply Act (SB-657) legislation please visit: 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Welcome to IOFA, Caitlin!

While completing my undergraduate degree in social work at SUNY Brockport I was fortunate to study under policy workers who promote wide scale change for the benefit of vulnerable populations as well as an expert in sex trafficking. Working with these mentors increased my awareness of human trafficking – an issue I had been vaguely aware of, but largely uninformed about.  I, like many others, had considered human trafficking to be an international issue. Because of this misconception I had missed the connection between human trafficking and the large migrant farm worker population in my own hometown of Sodus, NY. 
After graduation I worked at a residential facility for pregnant and parenting teen mothers.  Many of my clients were considered runaways until they became pregnant and entered the program.  Looking back now, I can see indicators amongst many of my clients suggesting they may have been victims of sex trafficking. For example, some of my clients would run away from placement for a weekend and come back with new clothes, electronics, or money.  One client in particular would talk about the various adult sexual partners that she had and what they would buy for her for being their ‘girlfriend.’  Many of my clients had the name of their boyfriend tattooed on their arms or chest, and most of my clients were involved in gangs, or were involved with someone who was in a gang.  Even though I didn’t quite understand all of the things my clients were going through at the time, I knew that I wanted to help them and that I currently did not have the skills or knowledge to do so.  I then deiced that it was time to go back to school to complete my Master’s Degree in Social Work at the University at Albany, SUNY.  
I am excited about my work as a ChildRight: New York intern at IOFA. In a few short weeks I have already learned so much about labor and sex trafficking, and I am eager to continue learning about human trafficking as it affects children and youth in New York State.  I look forward to incorporating my knowledge from working with vulnerable youth into the statewide response to child trafficking, and to contribute to the development of the ChildRight: New York Handbook and Blueprint. I am looking forward to learning and growing with all of you!

Caitlin Gallacher, ChildRight: New York Intern

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Abduction and Trafficking of the World’s Most Vulnerable

“I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market", said the leader of the extremist group Boko Haram. Boko Haram linked a video declaring their intention to sell the 276 school girls they abducted on April 14th, 2014 in the Nigerian village of Chibok. The school girls were taken from a secondary school at gun point. The kidnapping of such a large number of school girls shocked the world.

However, what shocked the world even more was the Boko Haram’s proclamation of their plan to sell the young girls on the market. Reports have begun to circulate stating that some of the girls have already been sold to the soldiers of Boko Haram as brides for a price of $12. Other reports state some of the young girls were taken and sold in neighboring countries. If these reports are true, some of these young girls may be sexually exploited, or forced into domestic servitude, while others may be forced into indentured servitude and forced labor. People all over the world are calling for the return of the girls before any more are sold.

Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar industry. It can often be perpetuated by systems and countries that do not have frameworks in place to appropriately identify or respond to human trafficking. According to the 2014 Trafficking in Person Report (TIP), 156 countries out of 188 do not meet the minimum standards set forth under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). Out of these 156 countries, 23 countries do not put forth any efforts to comply with the minimum standards under TVPA[1]. These countries’ lack of compliance and action allows human trafficking to persist and remain profitable. Nigeria is considered a Tier 2 country; its government does not fully comply with the TVPA’s standards, in part because the government refuses to pass legislation that require traffickers to receive prison sentences. The government does not address labor trafficking and it does not implement formal training and procedures for the recovery and reintegration of victims. Nigerian gangs often abduct and subject large groups of women to forced prostitution, domestic servitude, and forced labor. Boko Haram is just one example of an organization that has abducted and sold a large number of girls.

Traffickers often abduct the most vulnerable populations, especially those who tend to be forgotten by society at large, such as orphans. Orphans are often targeted because they do not have families. They are often lured with dreams of a better life, a life they often never end up seeing. Instead, they are forced into a life of prostitution and forced labor.

While working for an organization that specialized in assisting incarcerated youth, I came into contact with young orphan girls who were forced to become drug mules or prostitutes. Their captors were violent and merciless. The girls were often beaten, raped, or threatened with abuse. Without family or a support system, they did not have anyone to trust or turn to in times of need.

These children without family ties or support systems possess vulnerabilities that make them susceptible to human trafficking. In some cases, orphans without family ties are sent to an orphanage, but even this safe haven can be exploitative. The Department of State’s 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report gave various examples of abuse and exploitation that occur within orphanages. In one case, children at an orphanage in Albania experienced sexual abuse by the operator of the orphanage and were trafficked out to pedophiles.

“Scam orphanages” are also becoming increasingly popular in tourist locations. These orphanages house and exploit children by forcing them to pretend to be orphans in order to receive donations from tourists. Parents send their children to these orphanages, unaware of the scam, in hope of a better future for their children. However, the children receive little education and are required by the operators to appear sad and destitute. Scam orphanages take finances and attention away from orphanages that need help. Government corruption tends to be prevalent in areas where most scam orphanages are located. Corruption further allows for these young people to be forgotten and left even more vulnerable.

As a result, orphans – both true orphans and those handed off to pose as them – are often recruited by pimps, gangs, and criminal organizations. Sometimes, it is their caregivers who exploit them. In a world where children are being taken and sold by the dozens, we cannot afford to let a single child go unnoticed and unprotected. As I intern for IOFA, I realize increasingly why advocacy and training on the issue is valuable. It is important to advocate for changes within systems that directly address trafficking prevention and response while providing staff at child-serving agencies with training to help identify the signs of human trafficking and be equipped to appropriately respond.

-Sausha Cutler, IOFA Program Development Intern

[1] Note: While the Tier 2 and 3 rankings indicate that a country does not meet TVPA standards to address human trafficking, the ranking does not correlate to the prevalence of human trafficking in each country.

Cited sources:

“Trafficking in Persons Report : U.S. Department of State Publication 11407”, Office of the Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs and Bureau of Public Affairs (June 2007).

“Trafficking in Person Report: June 2014”, Office of the Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs and Bureau of Public Affairs (June 2014).

“A Profitable Enterprise”, Retrieved from:

“Boko Haram Could Make Good on Threat to 'Sell' Nigerian Girls”, Mike Brunker (May 2014). Retrieved from:

"Cambodia's Booming New Industry: Orphanage Tourism", Morgan Hartley and Chris Walker (May 2013). Retrieved from:

"Cambodia's Scam Orphanages", Poypiti Amatatham and Thomas Fuller (June 2014). Retrieved from:

Monday, May 5, 2014

ChildRight: New York

Curious about IOFA's work in New York? 

The following infographic highlights the Phase I goals and accomplishments of ChildRight: New York, a special project aimed at developing a coordinated response to child sex and labor trafficking across New York State.  

Friday, April 11, 2014

Child Labor, Chocolate and Makeup: Two Industries

For many people, “child trafficking” invokes terrible images of children locked in dark spaces, being transported, tortured, forced to have sex and left alone, confused and terrified.  Although these images are lived nightmares for many trafficking victims, another reality of child trafficking is forced labor.  Forced labor comes in many forms though the images described above can also be applied to the lives of child laborers.  In recent years, two industries known for using child laborers have received media attention due to well-known companies being involved in purchasing products from these producers: cocoa farmers in West Africa (Huffington Post, 2012; Forbes, 2014) and Indian mica producers (The Guardian, 2014).
The Hershey Company recently faced a lawsuit regarding their potential violation of federal child trafficking laws that prohibit the use of cocoa from known child laboring sites in Ghana and Ivory Coast.  What is still up for debate is whether or not the company knew that its suppliers used child labor (though cheap cocoa means cheap methods of production which raises questions about the ethics of a supplier’s production).
Cosmetic makeup companies like Lush and L’Oreal have taken steps to stop the use of mica, a common ingredient in makeup due to its glimmering property, from Indian producers who use child labor.  Cosmetic companies are trying to find ways to ensure that they won’t contribute to the problem.  For example, the British cosmetic company Lush has announced that they will no longer use mica in their products and L’Oreal’s mica supplier in India, Merck, has conducted social auditing of mica producers.
The Hershey and makeup cases illustrate two different approaches to the issue of child labor and its involvement in world trade.  The Hershey Company took an unfortunate risk which has had negative outcomes – Whole Foods Markets Inc. has discontinued selling the Hersey’s artisan chocolate brand Scharffen Berger in their stores and a public pension fund threatens to sue the company if it is proven that they were aware that their cocoa producers were using child labor.
               In the cosmetic industry, various methods have been used to avoid incorporating products from producers known to use child laborers.  Although not every method is 100% fail-proof (for example, social auditing can still miss cases of child labor that are covered up before the audit), at least the companies are doing something which is more than Hersey can say.
               In a competitive market, nothing can ruin your brand like involvement in social injustice.  While most people would argue that it’s wrong to support producers who use child labor, cheaper products – as a result of forced labor – are coveted in a world where economic growth is a life force.  From these two examples though, a simple lesson can be learned: avoid contributing to the issue of child labor in the first place or gamble your company’s reputation and revenue.

Cited sources:

Contributed by Annie Vulpas