Civil Rights for Trafficked Persons: Recommendations for a More Effective Federal Civil Remedy

Shannon Lack

Abstract


In response to increasing public awareness of human trafficking in the United States, the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA) was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in October of 2000. The TVPA consolidated existing legislation to create a comprehensive civil remedy; this ensures that trafficking victims are no longer forced to seek redress under multiple criminal and civil statutes that target only components of the human trafficking offense. However, despite its status as the first comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation to be enacted in the United States, the TVPA fails to sufficiently address human trafficking concerns. It is suggested that the failure of the TVPA is a result of both the prosecutorial focus of the legislation, a focus which tends to overlook victims’ civil rights, and the contingency of TVPA benefits upon adherence to the prosecutorial process. In response to the shortcomings of the TVPA, the legislation was amended by the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2003 (TVPRA) to provide a civil remedy for trafficking victims. The civil remedy confers on trafficking victims the private right to vindicate their civil rights and hold their traffickers directly accountable for their exploitative acts. By directly compensating victims, the civil remedy acts as a financial deterrent against traffickers and provides a private enforcement anti-trafficking policy. In pursuing the civil remedy, trafficking victims possess several advantages over the prosecutorial process of the TVPA and other civil causes of action. However, despite its advantages, the civil remedy is infrequently utilized thus frustrating congressional intent that victims advance antitrafficking policy by enforcing a civil remedy against their traffickers.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/jlc.2008.25

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