Press Release

Senators Portman & Gillibrand Announce Bipartisan Legislation to Clear Criminal Records for Human Trafficking Victims

Jan 12, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), founding Co-Chair of the Senate Caucus to End Human Trafficking, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) today introduced bipartisan legislation, the Trafficking Survivors Relief Act, which would help human trafficking victims by clearing any federal convictions for nonviolent crimes from criminal records.

Human trafficking is a modern day form of slavery affecting millions in the United States and abroad. This crime involves either the use of force, fraud, or coercion to exploit a person for labor or commercial sex, or the exploitation of a minor for commercial sex. As a result of being trafficked, victims are commonly charged with crimes such as conspiracy, money laundering, drug trafficking, and related offenses that then follow them for the rest of their lives. These charges make it difficult for human trafficking victims to find jobs and housing, leaving them vulnerable to being exploited and trafficked again.

“Trafficking victims are not criminals and they are not prostitutes. They are rape victims,” said Senator Portman.  “I’ve met with a number of brave trafficking survivors in Ohio who have told me that after they were forced into sex, they were charged with prostitution. This just makes no sense and it hurts them at a time when they are recovering from the unimaginable trauma of being trafficked and sexually abused. It’s time to stop punishing these victims and instead help them get their lives back.”

“Under current law, when a human trafficking victim is forced into slavery, in many cases, they are tagged with a multitude of criminal charges, even though they have absolutely no freedom to say no to their captors,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “Congress has a responsibility to end these injustices, and our bipartisan bill would vacate the criminal convictions of trafficking victims who were forced to break the law while they were trafficked. We all have a responsibility to protect the most vulnerable Americans, and I will continue to urge all of my colleagues to support this bill.”

NOTE: The Trafficking Survivors Relief Act would clear from criminal records any federal convictions for nonviolent crimes committed as a result of being trafficked. It would require victims to provide supporting documentation in order to get their non-violent criminal records vacated. These documents can include the following: 

  • Certified criminal or immigration court proceedings or law enforcement records demonstrating that the individual was a victim of trafficking at the time they were charged with the trafficking-related offense(s);
  • Testimony or sworn statement from a trained professional staff member of a victim services organization, an attorney, member of the clergy, a health care professional, a therapist, or other professional from whom the person has sought assistance in addressing the trauma associated with being a victim of trafficking; or
  • An affidavit or sworn testimony of the movant indicating that they were a victim of human trafficking at the time of their arrest and that they engaged in or were otherwise accused of engaging in criminal activities as a direct result of being a victim of human trafficking.