Holder touts prosecutions of trafficking of humans
More than 120 cases brought in ’11, he says
The Justice Department initiated more than 120 cases against human traffickers during 2011 — a record number — in what Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Thursday was a part of the department’s commitment to preventing human trafficking, bringing traffickers to justice and assisting their victims.
Mr. Holder, speaking at a Washington meeting of President Obama’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, said the commitment has “never been stronger — and our approach has never been more effective.”
“Our work has sent a clear and critical message: that, in this country — and under this administration — human-trafficking crimes will not be tolerated,” he said. “This work has saved lives, ensured freedom and restored dignity to women, men and children in virtually every corner of the country. We’ve liberated scores of victims; secured long prison sentences against individual traffickers; and dismantled large, transnational organized criminal enterprises.”
Mr. Holder said that over the past three years, the department had achieved “significant increases in human-trafficking prosecutions,” including a rise of more than 30 percent in the number of forcedlabor and adult sex-trafficking prosecutions.
In February 2011, the Justice Department began a Human Trafficking Enhanced Enforcement Initiative to take its countertrafficking enforcement efforts to a new level. As part of that effort, Mr. Holder announced the creation of the Anti-trafficking Coordination Team Initiative, an interagency collaboration among the departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Labor aimed at streamlining federal criminal investigations and prosecutions of human-trafficking offenses.
Six Phase I Pilot Acteams have since been activated in Atlanta; El Paso, Texas; Kansas City, Mo.; Los Angeles; Memphis, Tenn.; and Miami.
“By bringing federal investigative agencies and federal prosecutors together, they’re allowing us to develop and advance high-impact human-trafficking prosecutions,” he said.
Mr. Holder also noted that over the past year, the department had:
Dismantled a large, transnational organized criminal enterprise that held Ukrainian victims in forced labor in Philadelphia.
Brought freedom to illegal immigrants from Central America and convicted the traffickers who — with threats and violent abuse — compelled them into forced labor and prostitution in restaurants and bars on Long Island, N.Y.
Restored freedom to illegal immigrants from Eastern Europe and convicted the trafficker who brutally exploited them in massage parlors in Chicago, and even branded them with tattoos to claim them as his property.
Secured a life sentence against a gang member in Virginia for the sex trafficking of victims as young as 12 years old.
“We’re also taking steps to forge and strengthen partnerships across international borders — which, as we’ve seen repeatedly, are essential,” he said, adding that Justice Department officials and Mexican law enforcement had dismantled sex-trafficking networks operating on both sides of the U.S.Mexico border — “bringing freedom to the victims, and securing landmark convictions and substantial sentences against the traffickers in these high-impact bilateral cases.”