Law enforcement officials may encounter a potential victim of human trafficking during the course of their duties, during domestic disturbance calls, when responding to incidents at massage parlors, bars, and strip clubs, or even during routine traffic stops.
Recognizing key indicators can save a life. Review the indicators; this is the first step in identifying victims. If you suspect that someone may be a human trafficking victim, please reach out to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) at 1-866-347-2423 or a human trafficking task force in your area to work collaboratively on an investigation or report a tip. ICE HSI is responsible for investigating human trafficking and arresting traffickers. There also may be an organization-specific protocol you should follow to notify your supervisor and engage the proper local authorities.
DHS uses a victim-centered approach to combat human trafficking, which places equal value on the identification and stabilization of victims and providing immigration relief, as well as the investigation and prosecution of traffickers.
A victim-centered approach to investigation and prosecution is essential to accomplishing our law enforcement mission. Victims who can tell their story and testify as a witness are key to successful human trafficking investigations and prosecutions. When encountering a potential victim, it is important to remember that victims may not be comfortable coming forward and working with law enforcement. They need help to feel stable, safe, and secure. Trafficking victims may:
- Fear law enforcement;
- Not identify themselves as a victim;
- Not tell a complete story, or use rehearsed responses; or
- Identify with the trafficker.
It is crucial to understand that these behaviors are indicative of the level of control traffickers exert over victims, and that victims need support and understanding in order to help make the case investigation—and subsequent prosecution of the perpetrator—a success.
When law enforcement encounter a potential victim of trafficking in the course of their duties, it is critical that they begin to develop rapport and establish trust by:
- Immediately connecting the victim to a victim specialist who can connect them to support services― emphasizing that assistance is available regardless of the outcome of the investigation and prosecution;
- Taking time to explain who they are, answer questions they might have, and acknowledge and address their fears;
- Being sensitive to cultural differences and language barriers and using an interpreter when needed;
- Conducting interviews in a neutral location, only after the victim’s needs have been assessed and any urgent needs have been met; and
- Being patient and giving the victim time to stabilize and begin their recovery process.
The U.S. Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services (HHS) support direct services for victims of human trafficking through local, community-based service providers. HHS also can provide federal public benefits to victims.
Most states now have their own laws criminalizing human trafficking, making this form of modern-day slavery a violation not only of international and federal law, but also state laws.
As a result, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)―in particular U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)―pursues collaborative investigations with other law enforcement agencies at the international, federal, state, local, county, and tribal levels. DHS also works with those that have investigative authority, such as code inspectors, labor officials, and child welfare investigators. DHS’s primary aim in its fight against human trafficking is to work with law enforcement colleagues to protect and stabilize victims, prosecute offenders, and prevent additional trafficking.
DHS provides law enforcement nationwide with tools to assist noncitizen human trafficking victims. Use of these tools is part of a victim-centered approach in human trafficking investigations and prosecutions.
Some human trafficking victims may not have legal immigration status in the United States and traffickers use that lack of status to instill fear, exploit and control their victims. In turn, victims’ fear of removal can prevent them from reporting the crime or continuing to work with law enforcement after being identified. However, when law enforcement uses the temporary immigration tools that DHS makes available, victims are authorized to remain in the United States, are no longer fearful of removal, and can begin to rebuild their lives. Investigations and prosecutions are then more likely to be successful because victim witnesses will be available and better able to assist.
Continued Presence – A Law Enforcement Application
The DHS Center for Countering Human Trafficking processes all Continued Presence (CP) applications for federal, state, and local law enforcement nationwide.
CP is a temporary immigration designation provided to individuals identified by law enforcement as trafficking victims who may be potential witnesses. CP allows trafficking victims to lawfully remain in the United States. temporarily and work during the investigation into the human trafficking-related crimes committed against them and during any civil action under 18 U.S.C. § 1595 filed by the victims against their traffickers. CP not only authorizes the victim to remain in the United States for two years and is renewable but also provides a free work permit and eligibility for other federal benefits and services.
In the earliest stages of an investigation, CP is the best vehicle for federal, state and local law enforcement to obtain temporary and quick legal immigration protection for trafficking victims. This combination of protections stabilizes victims, restores self-sufficiency, and improves their ability to assist law enforcement. For more information, see the resources below or email ContinuedPresence@ccht.dhs.gov
Continued Presence Brochure
Continued Presence Video
Continued Presence (CP) is a temporary immigration status provided to individuals identified by law enforcement as victims of a “severe form of trafficking in persons” who may be potential witnesses. This three-part video describes CP, who is eligible, and how to make a request. The video can be used for training purposes and task force meetings.
Combatting Human Trafficking in Tribal Communities
Scott Santoro, Blue Campaign Senior Training Advisor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC), and Jeri Moomaw, Executive Director of Innovation Human Trafficking Collaborative, cover how human trafficking uniquely impacts Native Americans. This webinar provides information on how to better recognize and respond to Native American victims of human trafficking.
Interviewing Victims of Human Trafficking
Scott Santoro, Blue Campaign Senior Training Advisor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC), and Dr. Paulette Hubbert, Unit Chief for the Victim Assistance Program at U.S. Immigration Custom Enforcement (ICE) cover the effects of trauma on victims’ memories, how to avoid retraumatizing victims, and other strategies to effectively interview victims of trauma.