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Copyright (c) 2015 New York Law School Law Review
New York Law School Law Review

ARTICLE: Myths Meet Reality: How We Are Not Fighting Trafficking or Supporting Trafficking Survivors

2015 - 2016

New York Law School Law Review

60 N.Y.L. Sch. L. Rev. 605





We are sixteen years into "fighting" trafficking in the United States, and the earliest mistakes, misconceptions, and myths still guide policy, media storylines, and the public's understanding of human trafficking. This essay addresses how these policies have: (1) left workers not designated as "trafficked" under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) 1 to continue working unprotected, in a kind of labor purgatory; (2) insufficiently helped migrant workers who in fact did qualify for trafficking assistance; and (3) harmed all workers--foreign nationals and U.S. citizens--in the sex sector. True innovations in fighting trafficking must seek to protect all low-wage migrant workers, not just the most exploited. They must not fuel panics that equate all forms of sex work with trafficking. And they must offer more varied forms of assistance, over longer periods of time, to trafficking survivors.

The U.S. government defines human trafficking as recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person to work under conditions of "force, fraud, or coercion." 2 Trafficking occurs in all labor sectors, but since the enactment of the TVPA in 2000, trafficking into all forms of labor often has been conflated with trafficking into just one: the sex sector. Since the early years of the TVPA's implementation, trafficking has become synonymous with prostitution. 3 It has been entangled with ideological claims passed off as data, a powerful anti-prostitution lobby, and pop-up non-profit ...
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