According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) victims of human trafficking must comply with any reasonable request of law enforcement and attempt to report the traffickers.
Too often in my experiences since 2003, many of the victims who report are then left without certification, if law enforcement cannot or chooses not pursue the case. This leaves the victims in the dangerous position of having reported to law enforcement - something that the traffickers many times have promised death to the victims- and not being protected from deportation. To apply for relief from deportation victims require coo-berating evidence that they are victims of human trafficking. The application asks for a one-page form that documents the victims' attempt to report the crime signed by a law enforcement officer. This form is not contingent on a prosecution or even an investigation according to the TVPA, however in reality these forms are rarely signed even after a victim has reported to authorities.
Now the victims are left having risked their lives and or the lives of their loved ones by reporting the traffickers and for reasons outside their control they are dropped through the cracks. They are not protected and are either forced to exist underground or arrested and deported to certain death or re-trafficking.
In all the training I have received and in meeting with the lawmakers who wrote the laws the spirit of the TVPA and its reauthorizations was to protect the victims, not to place them in harms way due to their cooperation. Yet in reality, the truth is most victims risk being disbelieved or unable to be recognized by law enforcement is they speak out about the crimes.
There are a few well-trained and experienced officers that do understand the reason for the certifications, however these agents and officers are but hand full in all of the US. Human trafficking is the fastest growing crime in the world and it is a least a $10 billion crime annually, yet in the US the number of trained people working on this issue full time is but several dozen. Can you imagine fighting the drug trade with a few dozen people and no protection for victims/witnesses?
We need a change in the culture of law enforcement agencies so they must understand they have a duty under the TVPA to protect the victim even if there is not criminal case to be prosecuted. In California, the state law requires all law enforcement officers to either sign the form or submit in writing the reason for not signing the form within two weeks of the victim's report. This law should be looked at for other states.
We also need elected officials to look into the decisions that have left victims of human trafficking in desperate and unimaginable danger. Any agency should be looked at if they have taken reports from human trafficking victims and not protected them. It is critical that this practice have some oversight and accountability.
We have a victim now that is in certain danger as she is in the last stages of being deported. Through this process she has been in contact with many federal officers who should have recognized her as a victim trafficking yet she is days from deportation even thought she has reported to police many times. I hope and pray we can stop this as she has already been threatened and called "police woman" by someone from the city were she will be deported to. This is unacceptable in the country that claims to lead the global fight to combat human trafficking.