Critics say that under President Donald Trump, human trafficking victim protections have weakened in the United States, and the U.S. has not pushed other countries to address the issue more forcefully.
The State Department recently released its annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which it describes as “the U.S. Government’s principal diplomatic tool to engage foreign governments on human trafficking.” The report assigns every country to one of three tiers based on its government’s efforts to combat human trafficking, with Tier 1 being the best and Tier 3 being the worst. Under the Obama administration, the U.S. began grading itself in the report, and since then, it has always been assigned to Tier 1. But according to Martina E. Vandenberg, the founder and director of the Human Trafficking Legal Center, the Trump administration’s own policies toward trafficking victims calls that rating into doubt. In an interview with WPR, she explains why. The following transcript was lightly edited for length and clarity.World Politics Review: The Trump administration has assessed the U.S. as a Tier 1 country in its annual Trafficking in Persons Report. Was that justified?
Martina E. Vandenberg: Many of us in the human trafficking advocacy community argued in the lead-up to the report that the U.S. should be a Tier 2 country—that it should be downgraded—because of actions the Trump administration has taken to weaken protections for trafficking victims in the U.S.