DHS Blue Campaign: ICE Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons

The Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the largest investigative agency within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is responsible for enforcing a wide range of crimes related to border security, including conducting domestic and international investigations on human trafficking, child sex tourism, and forced child labor.

ICE utilizes all of its authorities and resources in a cohesive global enforcement response in order to dismantle the global criminal infrastructure engaged in human trafficking. ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has developed a comprehensive strategy to combat these criminal organizations through coordination with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and law enforcement, both domestically and in foreign countries, in order to identify and provide services to trafficking victims and coordinate investigations. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2009, ICE initiated 566 human trafficking investigations resulting in 388 arrests, 148 indictments, and 165 convictions. This is a 31 percent increase in investigations over the previous year.

Special Agents within our domestic and international offices work closely with the Headquarters Human Smuggling and Trafficking Unit (HSTU), International Affairs (IA), ICE Cyber Crimes Center (C3), Victim Assistance Program (VAP), and other units within HSI to conduct victim-centered investigations of trafficking in persons. Additionally, ICE plays a leading role in the government’s multiagency Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center. ICE continues to enhance its Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Strategy and plays a key role in DHS’s anti-human trafficking initiative, the Blue Campaign. The Blue Campaign is organized around the three “Ps” of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA): Protection (victim assistance), Prevention (public awareness) and Prosecution (law enforcement efforts). The Blue Campaign also emphasizes a fourth “P”: Partnerships.

Protection (victim assistance)

ICE is fully committed to victim-centered investigations in which the identification, rescue, and needs of victims have equal importance to the apprehension and prosecution of traffickers. ICE enhanced its victim assistance efforts by staffing full-time Victim Assistance Specialists in ICE HSI field offices and hiring dedicated Child Forensic Interviewers. To date, 13 of 26 ICE Special Agent in Charge offices have hired full-time victim specialists to complement the work of our 250 collateral duty Victim Assistance Coordinators.

ICE provides temporary legal immigration status to victims of trafficking in the form of Continued Presence (CP). CP ensures that trafficked persons are allowed to remain in the United States during the ongoing investigation and allows them to obtain a work authorization and other benefits. ICE has sole authority to adjudicate CP requests, which must be submitted by a federal law enforcement official. Typically, CP is granted for one year, but extensions may be authorized in one-year increments. In FY 2009, ICE authorized 447 CP requests and extensions.

As part of the Blue Campaign, ICE has produced a CP brochure that will serve as a resource for state and local law enforcement, NGOs, and victim service providers. The brochure provides a concise, yet comprehensive overview of CP, describes who is eligible, explains the CP process, and debunks myths commonly associated with CP in the law enforcement and NGO community.

Prevention (public awareness)

ICE’s Hidden in Plain Sight public awareness campaign reached 14 U.S. cities in the fall of 2009. The campaign was designed to raise general awareness of the crime of human trafficking and prompts the public to report suspected trafficking incidents. As part of its TIP strategy, ICE also produces and distributes trafficking indicator cards, pamphlets on the Victim Assistance Program, a public service announcement focused on victim recognition, and human trafficking posters. The wallet-sized TIP card is available in 17 languages. The PSA is available in 15 languages.

Prosecution (law enforcement efforts)

ICE is committed to combating human trafficking and aggressively investigates all allegations of exploitation. ICE recognizes that the nature of trafficking and the commitment to victim-centered investigations requires a multidisciplinary response. To this end, ICE personnel conduct outreach, conferences and training across the U.S. to law enforcement, consular officials, prosecutors, social service providers, and other partners on trafficking indicators, case initiation, human trafficking referrals, victim-centered investigations and immigration relief available to trafficking victims. In FY 2009, ICE Special Agent in Charge (SAC) and Attaché offices conducted outreach to 6,293 domestic law enforcement officials and over 20,000 NGO and law enforcement partners worldwide. Since inception of the ICE TIP Strategy in 2007, ICE has conducted outreach to over 85,000 NGO and domestic and foreign law enforcement personnel.

As part of the Blue Campaign, ICE has designated 39 human trafficking Subject Matter Experts (SME) – at least one in every SAC office. The new SMEs will be specially trained to serve as a resource and coordinate human trafficking efforts within their local offices. Additionally, ICE launched a new email address to allow for law enforcement, NGOs, and victim service providers to contact ICE Headquarters human trafficking experts with questions, comments, or concerns. The email address is ICEHumanTrafficking.HelpDesk@dhs.gov.


ICE has long recognized the critical role that partnerships play in the global fight against human trafficking. In addition to the outreach to law enforcement and the NGO community conducted under the auspices of the TIP Strategy, ICE participates in the Department of Justice (DOJ) funded, locally led human trafficking task forces comprised of representatives from the state and local law enforcement, state prosecutors, local U.S. Attorney’s Offices, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and NGO partners. In September 2009, the HSI International Affairs hosted its first NGO Liaison Working Group Meeting. Representatives from over a dozen NGOs, the International Organization for Migration as well as Custom and Border Protection and other DHS offices shared information regarding their activities on forced labor and trafficking in persons. ICE is partnering with the Government of Mexico and DOJ to increase coordination and information sharing with Mexico’s Procuraduría General de la República and to provide training and outreach to Mexican state and local prosecutors and investigators. ICE and DHS recognize that local, regional, national, and global partnerships are key to combating human trafficking.

Trafficking Case Examples

NGO Tip Leads to Rescue of 85 Trafficking Victims
In New York, Peruvian migrants were subjected to forced labor and debt bondage. A husband and wife were sentenced to 11 and 15 years, respectively, for conspiracy to commit forced labor and document servitude, conspiracy to bring in and harbor aliens and engaging in extortionate credit transactions.

Trafficker Arrested in Cameroon
In Baltimore, a 10-year-old girl from Cameroon was brought to the U.S. for the purpose of domestic servitude and subjected to physical abuse and isolation. The trafficker fled the U.S. and was later arrested in Cameroon. The trafficker was brought back to the U.S. to serve a 17-year sentence for involuntary servitude and harboring for financial gain. The trafficker was ordered to pay $100,000 restitution to the victim.

Trafficker Sentenced to 23 Years
In Texas, four Mexican women were rescued from traffickers who raped them and forced the victims to cook and clean for them. Eight defendants were convicted of human smuggling/trafficking violations. The lead defendant was sentenced to 23 years for involuntary servitude.

Sex Traffickers Sentenced to 40 years
In Los Angeles, 15 women and girls were forced by a family-run human trafficking organization into prostitution. As a result of the investigation, seven Guatemalan and two Mexican nationals were found guilty of conspiracy, sex trafficking of children by force, and importation and harboring of illegal aliens for purposes of prostitution and sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging from two to 40 years depending on their level of involvement.

Cooperation with Mexican Law Enforcement Rescues 24 Victims
In New York, an ICE-led investigation, in collaboration with the Government of Mexico, targeted a trafficking organization that smuggled Mexican women into the United States and then subjected them to commercial sexual exploitation. Twenty-four women were forced into prostitution at brothels on the East Coast through threats of violence against them and their children. The principal traffickers were sentenced to terms of imprisonment from 25 to 50 years each. The mother of the main defendants was arrested in Mexico and later extradited to the United States, where she was sentenced to 10 years in prison for her involvement in the scheme.

Russian, Ukrainian and Czech Labor Trafficking Victims Rescued in Detroit
In Detroit, a concerned citizen reported women being forced to work against their will as exotic dancers. Ten women were brought to the United States through a visa fraud scheme where they were forced to work as dancers through threats of violence, sexual abuse, and threats of jail and deportation. The investigation resulted in the arrest and indictment of nine defendants. All of the defendants pleaded guilty and their sentences ranged from probation to 14 years imprisonment.

Domestic Servitude Victim Rescued on Long Island
On Long Island, ICE agents arrested a husband and wife as a result of a domestic servitude investigation. The couple was alleged to have held two Indonesian females in their residence where they were forced to perform domestic services. They were found guilty by a jury of forced labor, peonage, document servitude, harboring aliens and conspiracy. The wife was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment and her husband was sentenced to three years. The jury ordered that their residence, valued at $1.5 million, be criminally forfeited in order to assist with victim restitution. 

To report instances of suspected human trafficking,

please contact  ICE at 1-866-DHS-2ICE.

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