Interdisciplinary Conference on Human Trafficking at the University of Nebraska


Date of this Version



Presented at First Annual Interdisciplinary Conference on Human Trafficking, Lincoln, Nebraska, October 29-31, 2009.
Published in Regent University Law Review, vol. 21 (2009), pp. 161-193. Copyright © 2009 Regent University Law Review. Used by permission.


America is at war. Declared by the Clinton Administration in the late 1990s, then prioritized by the Bush Administration, the ―war‖ on human trafficking represents America‘s struggle to eradicate the phenomenon of modern-day slavery within its borders. An army of legislators, law enforcement agents, and everyday abolitionists fight on legal, social, and political battlefields to liberate the hidden victims who suffer in bondage. The recent enactment of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 20082 ("2008 TVPRA"), heralds significant victories in the battles to achieve better victim protection and increase prosecution of traffickers. But even as legislative battles are conquered, others continue to develop. The war suffers from incohesiveness, a lack of direction, and political discord. These problems point to a missing tactical element that is critical to the war‘s ultimate success—a strategic framework that is both centralized and comprehensive. This Note proposes that publication of an annual United States Trafficking in Persons Strategy ("U.S. TIPS"), aptly directed by the nation‘s Commander-in-Chief, could help solve these problems by establishing a well-defined mission, uniting all ―soldiers‖ under a common purpose, and providing a means by which to measure progress toward a specified timeline of goals. In 2009, the task falls on the Obama Administration to pick up the war on trafficking where his predecessors left off: our newest President must provide the leadership necessary to rally the troops, cast a vision, and finish the fight.

This Note tracks the development of the war on human trafficking in America through the 2008 TVPRA and identifies emerging red flags that signal the need for a strategic framework. Part I explains the nature of human trafficking as a criminal enterprise and the context of America‘s first anti-trafficking legislation, the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 20003 ("TVPA"). Part II addresses some of the critiques, obstacles, and pitfalls experienced in the early years of the TVPA‘s implementation. Part III acknowledges the impressive legislative strides that mended gaps identified in earlier legislation, focusing largely on the 2008 TVPRA amendments. Part IV illuminates the need for a strategic framework by addressing several potential landmines in the political battleground, where ongoing debate over the scope of trafficking, the effect of prostitution, and the role of competing agencies threatens to impede anti-trafficking efforts. Part V proposes an annually published U.S. TIPS as a means for the President to implement a centralized and comprehensive strategic framework that would define the parameters of human trafficking; establish the roles of concerned departments, agencies, and nongovernmental organizations ("NGOs"); position future goals in an aspirational timeline; measure progress on a state-by-state and national basis; and provide a centrally recognized document to report synthesized updates of ongoing research results.