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ABA Policies on Human Trafficking

In February 2020, the ABA adopted CHR-initiated policy encouraging lawyers in all practice areas to use and promote technology-based platforms that facilitate the efficient, timely, and targeted matching of survivors of human trafficking who have legal needs with lawyers who have the requisite specialization and availability to meet those needs pro bono.  The accompanying report highlighted the ALIGHT model as a leading example of such a technology-based platform.

Resolution for the Vacating of Convictions for Victims of Trafficking (2013) This Resolution urges lawmakers to aid adult and minor victims of human trafficking by enacting and enforcing laws and policies that permit victims of human trafficking to vacate their criminal convictions for crimes related to prostitution or other non-violent crimes that are a direct result of their trafficking victimization; encourages legal assistance providers to develop pro bono programs to assist victims of human trafficking to vacate convictions for offenses that are a direct result of their trafficking victimization; and calls for lawmakers to help establish and fund programs to assist victims with the process. 

Resolution for Affirmative Defense for Victims of Trafficking (2013) The Resolution encourages lawmakers to enact legislation allowing adult and minor human trafficking victims charged with prostitution related offenses or other non-violent offenses that are a direct result of their being trafficked, to assert an affirmative defense of being a human trafficking victim. 

Resolution to Prohibit the Prosecution of Victims of Trafficking for Crimes Arising from their Trafficking (2013)  This Resolution encourages lawmakers to enact laws and regulations and to develop policies that assure that once an individual has been identified as a victim of human trafficking, that individual: should not be prosecuted for crimes related to their prostitution or other non-violent deadly crimes that are a direct result of the individual’s status as a victim of human trafficking; should be housed appropriately; should be provided appropriate protection and should be assured their names and identifying information will not be disclosed to the public.

Resolution Approving A Uniform State Human Trafficking Law (2013) Approves the Uniform Prevention of and Remedies for Human Trafficking Act, promulgated by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, as an appropriate Act for those states desiring to adopt the specific substantive law suggested therein.

Resolution Endorsing Guidelines for Business Implementing Human Rights Standards (2012) Endorses the United Nations Protect, Respect and Remedy: A Framework for Business and Human Rights (2008) and its companion Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations 'Protect, Respect and Remedy' Framework (2011).

Resolution Urging the Strengthening of Tribal Jurisdiction in VAWA (2012) Urges Congress to strengthen tribal jurisdiction to address crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, and sex trafficking committed on tribal lands in the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

Resolution urging the screening of unaccompanied and undocumented immigrant children (2011)  This Resolution urges prompt screening of unaccompanied and undocumented immigrant children by independent experts in order to determine if the children are victims of trafficking or other crimes, or abuse, neglect or abandonment that could be a basis for immigration relief. The Resolution also urges that children only be repatriated with formal inter country child welfare agency support and through use of inter country protocols, to assure that the child’s dignity and safety during and after the process of returning the child to a family environment. The Resolution also urges revision of state and federal law so a child can never be barred from obtaining vital government records because a parent, legal guardian, or primary caregiver is a noncitizen. Finally, the resolution urges federal support of training for judges and attorneys in state juvenile and family court on connections between child welfare law and federal immigration law, as well as on international conventions and standards related to children separated from detained or removed adult caretakers.

Resolution encouraging the treatment of exploited children as victims in need of services and prohibit prosecution of crimes arising from victimization (2011) This resolution encourages state and federal authorities to treat exploited children as victims rather than criminals, and to help assure they receive the services they need. The recommendation calls for the prohibition of the arrest or charging of children under the age of 18 with the crimes of prostitution, solicitation, or loitering as well as other offenses, including status offenses that are incident to their trafficking situation. These children are exploited for their labor and services, or forced into commercial sexual activity, and thus should be placed in immediate protective custody, as dependent children, in a suitable residential environment.

Resolution to urge Congress to Re-Authorize the Violence Against Women Act (2010)  Enhances judicial, legal and law enforcement tools to combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  Improves services for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  Strengthens the healthcare system’s response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  Provides housing opportunities and economic security for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  Provides services, protection, and justice for underserved and vulnerable victims of violence, including children and youth who are victims or are witnesses to family violence, and victims who are disabled, elderly, immigrant, trafficked, LGBT and/or Indian.

Resolution Urging Congress to Increase Funding for Programs under the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (2010) The ABA urges state, local, and territorial governments to revise their laws, policies and practices by: 1) Assisting, as victims of crime, instead of arresting, children who have engaged in prostitution or other forms of commercial sexual exploitation; and 2) Assisting, instead of arresting and using the courts to unnecessarily detain, children who have been forced out of their homes or who have run away from homes that are abusive or neglectful; and 3) Ensuring that safe and loving families can be supported and that reunification can occur.  The Association further urges Congress, state, local, and territorial governments to improve statutory definitions, as well as data collection and reporting systems, in order to: 1) Assist in better defining unaccompanied, homeless youth; and 2) Accurately count the number of runaway and homeless youth, as well as youth who are sexually trafficked or otherwise victimized by commercial sexual activity.

Resolution to Protect and Aid Displaced Women and Children in Haiti  (2010) The recommendation urges the federal government to intensify its effort to provide adequate food, water, shelter and physical security to displaced women and children in Haiti, and to fund and support regional, sub-regional and international programs which prioritize the protection of these vulnerable groups. It further urges federal, state, territorial and local governments and agencies involved in aid and rebuilding efforts in Haiti to adopt programs and policies that specifically aim to address situations that place women and children in marginalized and at-risk situations. Finally, the recommendation urges the federal government to fund and support national, regional, sub-regional and international policies and programs that: (1) prevent sexual violence against Haitian women and children; (2) combat sexual exploitation and trafficking of Haitian women and children; (3) bring to justice perpetrators of such crimes; and (4) provide effective assistance and rehabilitation to victims.

Resolution Encouraging Independent Counsel for Child Victims (2009) The appointment of counsel for child victims and witnesses in criminal and delinquency cases will provide for the enforcement of protections already in place, take the onus of these obligations off the court and the prosecutor, provide a safer system for child victims, utilize court resources more efficiently, and create a more just court process and better outcome for all involved.

Resolution for Reasonable Immigration Filing Fees, Including No Fees for Applications Forms of Immigration Relief (2008)  Recommendation supporting fee levels for immigration and naturalization benefits that would not result in the denial of benefits to those who are unable to pay. If fees are set at a level that would result in a denial of benefits, there should be a clearly defined fee waiver policy and procedures to ensure that waivers are available. The resolution further urges that no fees be charged for applications for humanitarian forms of immigration relief and associated benefits; and that applicants for immigration benefits do not bear the costs of activities not directly related to application processing that benefit the general public, such as national security and anti-fraud efforts. Finally, the resolution urges Congress and the executive branch to ensure that adequate funds are appropriated to enable USCIS to implement these recommendations.

Resolution Recommending the Passage of the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) (2008)  Recommendation supporting passage and funding of the International Violence Against Women Act (“IVAWA”) pending in the U.S. Congress, along with identifying and adopting several of the specific goals of IVAWA as consistent with ABA policy, including legal assistance to victims and legal training and education for practitioners.

Resolution to Protect and Assist Victims of Human Trafficking, Prevent Trafficking, Raising Awareness, and Providing Pro Bono Services to Victims  (2007)  The American Bar Association urges federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal governments to pass legislation, authorize funding, and appropriate funding that strengthens protection and assistance for victims of trafficking in persons, within the United States or abroad, as well as prevention efforts and encourages state, local, territorial, tribal, specialty, and foreign bar associations to engage members of the legal profession in raising awareness of trafficking in persons in their communities and in providing pro bono legal services to victims of trafficking.

Resolution for Immigration Remedies and Legal Services for Victims of Human Trafficking  (2006)  The Commission on Immigration recommends that the Association support avenues for lawful immigration status, employment authorization, and public benefits for victims of human trafficking and other crimes (including rape, torture, domestic violence, sexual assault, and sexual exploitation). The recommendation further supports the use of Legal Services Corporation funding to provide services to such victims. The recommendation opposes the apprehension of victims of domestic violence, trafficking, and others crimes, for immigration violations, at shelters, crisis centers, or courts where they are seeking protection orders. Finally, the recommendation opposes placing such victims in removal proceedings or in immigration detention if they are eligible for immigration relief.

Resolution Urging the U.S. to Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography  (2000)

Resolution to End the Economic Exploitation of Minors (1996) urges the United Nations to take further action to promote the reduction of poverty and the abolition of child labor.