Regina B. Schofield, Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
National Human Trafficking Conference 2006
New Orleans, LA
October 3, 2006
Welcome to New Orleans and the National Human Trafficking Conference.
I'd like to ask everyone to rise for the presentation of the colors and the singing of the National Anthem. Presenting the colors is the U.S. Coast Guard 8th District Regional Color Guard. Singing the National Anthem are Ashley Milanese and Julia Berner. I want to thank our singers, Ashley and Julia, for lending us their beautiful voices. Ashley and Julia are freshmen at Sacred Heart High School here in New Orleans.
I am pleased to see such a diverse group of professionals with us today. We have participants from law enforcement, prosecution, victim services, and faith and community organizations. We have both academic-based researchers and front-line practitioners. We have leaders from the federal, state, and local level. Some of you have been doing this work for years. Others of you are new to the field. Whatever your area of work or level of experience, I applaud your commitment to suppressing trafficking and helping trafficking victims. By joining your colleagues and counterparts from all over the country, you are helping us send a clear signal to the world that human life and human dignity are not for sale in the United States.
Over the next two days, we will explore the nature of human trafficking crimes and develop strategies for addressing them. We will learn about the many forms that trafficking takes. We will strengthen our ability to identify trafficking crimes and trafficking victims. We will learn how to minimize the potential for trafficking operations in your community. And we will learn how to give the best help possible to the unfortunate victims. Throughout the conference, we will hear from leaders in our fight against trafficking. They will describe the progress we have made and tell us what we need to do to build on that progress. And all of us will have the opportunity to hear from each other about programs and practices that are working in communities.
It is our hope that each of you will come away from this conference with an enhanced understanding of the problem of human trafficking and new skills for addressing it. Just as important, we hope that you come away with a strengthened commitment to the work you are already doing. You all are very aware of the problem. The federal government estimates that, every year, between 600,000 and 800,000 people are transported across international borders to be systematically abused, sexually exploited, and brutalized. Most of these victims are women and children. As many as 17,500 people may be trafficked into the United States, where they are forced into prostitution, sweatshops, and domestic servitude.
President Bush and Attorney General Gonzales are leading a coordinated attack against traffickers. Under the Attorney General's direction, the U.S. Attorneys and the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division have taken the lead in prosecuting human trafficking cases. And the Office of Justice Programs is supporting their efforts. Our Bureau of Justice Assistance supports law enforcement task forces in cities across the country. These task forces are rescuing victims and improving the effectiveness of trafficking investigations, and they are helping to raise awareness of the problem among community residents. In a few moments, you will hear from the Attorney General about how effective our enforcement efforts have been.
Through our Office for Victims of Crime, we support direct services for human trafficking victims. These programs work in partnership with community organizations to provide a wide range of comprehensive and culturally competent services from legal aid to translation services to housing, job training, and medical assistance. Our grantees have served hundreds of victims from all over the world. In many cases, these programs represent the first time anyone has offered to help them instead of hurt them.
Program staff also provide frequent training on identifying and helping trafficking victims. In the first half of this year alone, they trained more than 65,000 people, including some 12,500 law enforcement officers. We also are working to gain a better understanding of the scope and nature of trafficking. One of the biggest obstacles in our fight against trafficking is lack of information. We also are working to gain a better understanding of the scope and nature of trafficking. One of the biggest obstacles in our fight against trafficking is lack of information.
Today, I'm happy to announce that our Bureau of Justice Statistics is releasing a "data brief" summarizing information about the federal prosecution of human trafficking for the years 2001 to 2005.
Our research arm, the National Institute of Justice, is helping us find out where and how trafficking originates as well as how victims are recruited. Knowing this will help us to target our resources and ensure a more effective response.
The goals of this conference are to improve our understanding of the problem and hone our skills for addressing it. I'm pleased that so many of our federal, state, and local partners are here to help us attain those goals. I want to thank Attorney General Gonzales for joining us today and for his leadership in our fight against human trafficking. I want to thank our U.S. Attorneys and our federal partners for their presence and commitment. And I want to thank each of you for being part of this event and for the hard work you do every day in your communities.