The U.S. Department of Justice will issue special visas to victims of sex trafficking which will allow them to reside in the United States if victims would suffer “extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm,” if they were to return to their countries of origin and if victims agree to assist law enforcement with the investigation and prosecution of suspected traffickers. These special visas were authorized by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. The Feminist Majority worked in support of this legislation which seeks to eradicate trafficking by increasing penalties for those found guilty of trafficking, providing support for victims, and establishing standards for the elimination of trafficking globally.
According to the 2000 Annual Trafficking in Persons Report issued by the State Department, an estimated 700,000 people Ð mostly women and children Ð are victims of trafficking each year. Of these, the State Department estimates that between 45,000 and 50,000 are trafficked to the United States and forced to work in sweatshop like conditions or in the sex industries as prostitutes. The United Nations, however, estimates that between 244,000 and 325,000 women and children are victims of commercial sexual exploitation in the United States. Sex trafficking is the third most lucrative criminal activity in the world after smuggling arms and narcotics according to officials present at the Second World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children held in December 2001.