By John A. Martin, Center for Public Policy Studies
- how views about procedural justice can help courts address the complicated nexus of human trafficking dynamics, language, culture, and immigration status; and
- how courts can institutionalize mechanisms to help victims, witnesses, and others in human trafficking involved cases navigate the court and justice system, make good choices, and acknowledge and follow court orders and other forms of sound guidance
Estimates of the number of people trafficked from other nations to the United States annually for labor or commercial sex purposes range from about 15,000 to over 50,000 people. In addition, there is increasing concern among service providers that some groups of foreign nationals living in the United States—such as the 60,000 plus unaccompanied minors entering the country without authorization annually in recent years, and the 70,000 plus refugees admitted each year—may be particularly vulnerable to becoming trafficking victims. Moreover, there are no estimates for how many of the nearly 60 million U.S. residents five years of age or older that speak a language other than English at home might be, currently or potentially, involved in sex or labor trafficking as either victims, witnesses, or traffickers. Numbers are imprecise too regarding how many of the hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens trafficked for sex or labor might come from cultures that differ substantially from the dominant culture of the courts. Finally, precise information also is lacking regarding how much of the trafficked population from abroad speak languages other than English, come from cultures that differ from the dominant culture of the courts, or have immigration status issues.
Even though there is a lack of precise data about the number of trafficked individuals in the United States, as shown in previous chapters of the NACM Human Trafficking Guide (HT Guide), we do know that the complexity of the challenges facing state courts resulting from trafficking are considerable, affecting everything from the mechanics of risk and needs assessment and judicial ethics to strategies for providing effective services for severely traumatized people. In particular, as discussed in this chapter, the dynamics of human trafficking, coupled with the complexities of working across languages and cultures, likely pose even greater challenges for our courts than in non-trafficking-involved cases.