Are Juvenile Gang Members Victims of Labor Trafficking?
By Cristina M. Rizen*
Domestic child trafficking, while prevalent, often receives less attention than
international child trafficking.1 Within domestic child trafficking, cases of sex trafficking are
more prevalent than labor trafficking.2 Although labor trafficking remains the most “hidden”
form of trafficking, in general, its effects are just as damaging as the more recognized sex
trafficking.3 In addition to being exploited for labor, victims of labor trafficking are subjected to
dangerous work in unsafe conditions and may also be sexually and physically abused.4 Although
domestic, agricultural, and restaurant work are the most widely-recognized venues for forced
labor, applicable laws do not limit labor trafficking to these industries.5 “Services” is not
narrowly defined and can describe any number of activities that may be exploited for the
economic gain of a trafficker.6
The way the law looks at child perpetrators of crimes induced by adults who control
those children has changed dramatically since the United States increased its attention on human
trafficking.7 Prosecutors once saw children who were induced to commit crimes by virtue of
being trafficked as nothing but juvenile delinquents in need of correction and rehabilitation rather
than as victims who need to be made whole.8 Since Congress passed the Trafficking Victims
Protection Act of 2000 (“TVPA”),9 child trafficking victims, particularly those who have been
prostituted, are increasingly recognized as victims of the criminal acts of their traffickers and not
as criminals themselves.10 The “safe harbor” laws that are appearing across the country are a
reflection of this shift in how the law reacts to these child victims of trafficking.11
* Cristina Rizen is a graduate of Loyola University Chicago, J.D. 2014, where she focused her studies on child and family law. Ms.
Rizen is most grateful for the kind support of Professor Katherine Kaufka-Walts and Professor Patricia K. Kerig, and her family,
particularly Agatha Mitchell.
1 Travis Johnson, All Children Are Created Equal Too: The Disparate Treatment of Youth Rights in America, 15 CUNY L. REV. 173,
2 U.S. DEP’T OF JUSTICE, CIVIL RIGHTS DIV., REPORT ON THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE TRAFFICKING VICTIMS PROTECTION ACT,
4–8 (2010), http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/crm/trafficking_newsletter/tvpaanniversaryreport.pdf; see Kevin Bales et al., Hidden
Slaves Forced Labor in the United States, 23 BERKELEY J. INT’L L. 47, 57 (2005) [hereinafter Hidden Slaves]; see also Trafficking
Resource Center, Hotline Statistics, http://www.traffickingresourcecenter.org/states (including yearly national and state-by-state
statistics of human trafficking reports).
3 Hidden Slaves, supra note 2, at 52–53.
4 Id. at 61–66.
5 See infra Part II.
6 See Hotline Statistics, NAT’L HUMAN TRAFFICKING RES. CTR., http://www.traffickingresourcecenter.org/states (last visited Feb. 4,
2015) (recognizing services in which individuals have reportedly been trafficked); see also Jill E.B. Coster van Voorhout, Human
Trafficking for Labour Exploitation: Interpreting the Crime, 3 UTRECHT L. REV. 44, 59–65 (2007) (discussing the definitions and
elements of labor trafficking in a European context).
7 Hon. Toko Serita, In Our Own Backyards: The Need For A Coordinated Judicial Response To Human Trafficking, 36 N. Y.U. REV.
L. & SOC. CHANGE 635, 637–39 (2012); see also HEATHER J. CLAWSON ET AL., ICF INT’L, PROSECUTING HUMAN TRAFFICKING
CASES: LESSONS LEARNED AND PROMISING PRACTICES 12–27 (2008), available at
https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/223972.pdf (discussing the status of state and federal human trafficking prosecution and
issues with implementation); see generally Johnson, supra note 1, at 180–82 (discussing the problems involved in addressing
delinquency with respect to the minor’s history of abuse).
8 Serita, supra note 7, at 652.
9 Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, Pub. L. No. 106-386, 114 Stat. 1464 (2000) (codified as amended at 22
U.S.C. §§ 7101–7113 (2012)).
10 22 U.S.C. § 7105(c); 325 ILL. COMP. STAT. ANN. 5/3(h) (West 2015) (including child victims of trafficking in the definition of
abused and neglected child); 720 ILL. COMP. STAT. ANN. 5/11-14(d) (West 2015) (permitting evidence that a child was a victim of