By: Nicolas Jesús Monarrez

Human trafficking victims are afforded many protections from both state and federal government. While on paper, these protections seem to provide the results desired, many fall short, leaving victims of human trafficking to make difficult decisions which may risk their safety. This is true in Arizona and is a large civil rights concern.

Federal & State Protections

Human trafficking, or trafficking in persons, requires the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. [1] It is a crime that exists in every country, is based on exploitation, doesn’t require movement across borders, and is a hidden crime where victims are scared to come forward. [2] Federally, victims of human trafficking were first protected by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). [3] TVPA is a comprehensive federal law providing a three-prong approach of prevention, protection, and prosecution. [4] TVPA was reauthorized in 2003, 2005, 2008, 2013, and 2015. [6] Protection increased with the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014 and the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015. [7] There are also task forces set up through U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security. [8] Finally, there is the National Human Trafficking Hotline. [9]

Arizona adopts many protections as a state, while still adhering to the TVPA as the first comprehensive federal law. [10] The Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith, and Family promotes human trafficking awareness. [11] Their page provides insight into legislature and victim types. [12] The office also produces the Arizona Human Trafficking Council Report. [13] Locally, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office also provides the Human Trafficking Victim’s Assistance Fund (HTVAF). [14] Additionally, Maricopa County has a human trafficking task force. [15] Along with these protections, state actors are encouraged to prosecute human trafficking through strong legislature such as TVPA and House Bill 2454.

This Assistance is not Meeting its Potential

While the laws, programs, and assistance are well-meant, The Arizona Human Trafficking Report

identified 125 persons arrested for trafficking and 120 victims of labor trafficking between 2013 and 2016. The report also found that cases of labor trafficking steadily increased over the four years, in immigrant labor traffickers, labor traffickers involved in visa fraud and in increase in traffickers involved in withholding of victim’s passport or visa.

[16] The U.S. State Department has also declared Arizona “a main destination and transit point for labor and sex trafficking, both nationally and internationally.” [17] Each year, there are an estimated 199,000 incidents of human trafficking in the United States. [18] Arizona’s call information was recorded by the National Human Trafficking Hotline. In the time frame between 12/07/07 and 06/30/2019, there were 3,403 total contacts and less than 1,100 cases. [19]

Not only does human trafficking in Arizona seem to be on an uptick, despite the efforts made, but the money saved for victims in the Victim’s Assistance Fund is also difficult to obtain. Those who work in half-way homes have given interviews saying the most difficult obstacle between a victim of human trafficking and self-sufficiency is access to the fund. [20] In the same interview the interviewee describes the “ website as confusing, the application as complicated, and said it was disappointing to see the requirements victims needed to come up with before they could be considered eligible to receive the funding.” [21] Because of this, “many victims have to return to the streets.” [22]

In 2016 alone, Phoenix accounted for almost 500 calls and accounted for almost two percent of calls nationwide. [23] At that rate, or even slightly below, the data above showing Arizona had only 3,403 calls seems wildly off. At a rate of 500 calls a year for twelve years, there should be around 6,000 calls placed, just in Phoenix. Further, assuming 199,000 incidents occur yearly in the U.S. how can the number of contacts and cases be so low in Arizona? The answer lies in the inability for the victims to access funds and the fear/coercion that is used to traffic humans.

Without drastic improvement to the assistance of victims and punishment of perpetrators, human trafficking will continue to plague Arizona and the United States. I suggest that the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office provide classes and certified resources at specified times and dates for victims to attend. This will allow victims to navigate the application process successfully and begin to rebuild. While fear of retaliation and their trafficker causes many victims to remain quiet, an improvement in the accessing of funds and assistance could improve the issue by guaranteeing safeguards should a person leave.


[1] Ariz. Human Trafficking Council, 2018 Annual Report 15 (2018).

[2] Arizona, Nat’l Human Trafficking Hotline,

[3] 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report, U.S. Dep. Of State,

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Arizona, Nat’l Human Trafficking Hotline,

[10] Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention, Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family,

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Victim’s Services, Maricopa Cty. Attorney’s Office,

[15] Id.

[16] Ariz. Human Trafficking Council, 2018 Annual Report 15 (2018).

[17] 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report, U.S. Dep. Of State,

[18] Arizona, Nat’l Human Trafficking Hotline,

[19] Id.

[20] abc15.comstaff, Sex-trafficking victims unable to access fund set aside for victims of crime, (Nov. 1, 2019),

[21] Id.

[22] Id.

[23] Mikenna Yarmus-Gannon, What to know about human trafficking in Arizona: fact versus fiction, The State Press (Nov. 21, 2018),