Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on Human Trafficking: An Analysis

Between the COVID-19 pandemic, prolonged wildfires, flaring international tensions, and a number of other tragedies, 2020 was one of the most tumultuous years in recent memory for people of all nations. But in the United States, national attention was consistently captured by the quadrennial presidential elections. Like the rest of 2020, the American presidential elections were unusually turbulent with various court challenges, vote recounts, and more. Nevertheless, on November 7th, 2020, Joe Biden was finally declared as the 46th US president and Kamala Harris the 49th vice president. 

Over the course of the election period, the political stances and histories of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were thoroughly analyzed and publicized. However, one area relatively underreported by the media was their approaches to anti-trafficking legislation. As Biden and Harris are set to be the president and vice president respectively for at least the next four years, this topic appears to be of increasing importance. 

To begin, both Biden and Harris have dealt with the issue of human trafficking in their past political careers. Joe Biden, over the course of his 36 years in the Senate, has acted on various pieces of legislation regarding and centering on human trafficking. For example, in 2008, Joe Biden introduced the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. However, for the most part, Joe Biden has taken a relatively passive role in human trafficking legislation, effectively limiting his participation to voting. In 2000, Joe Biden voted in favor of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, in 2003, he voted in favor of the PROTECT Act of 2003, and in 2010, he voted in favor of the Justice for Victims of Human Trafficking Act. These pieces of legislation all aided in the prosecution of human trafficking or protected victims of human trafficking. 

Kamala Harris, on the other hand, took a more active role in human trafficking prosecution. In 2005, she cosponsored the California Human Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2005, which made human trafficking a felony in California. In 2012, she sponsored the Senate Bill 1133, which attempted to limit the profits of human trafficking by expanding the categories of property that could be confiscated from convicted traffickers. Kamala Harris also sponsored Senate Bill 2466, which strengthened restitution laws for victims of trafficking. In addition to her bills, Kamala Harris signed a letter with 46 state attorney generals, asking Congress to allow states to sue websites that “knowingly advertised for and profited from” sex trafficking. 

The histories of Biden and Harris on human trafficking appear largely consistent with their future plans. The most comprehensive site for information on the Biden-Harris administration’s goals is likely the Biden-Harris platform. Upon first glance, the Biden-Harris platform is a behemoth of promises, separated into over forty different plans ranging from Biden’s plan to “restore American leadership abroad” to Biden’s plan to “end our gun-violence epidemic”. There is no designated section on human trafficking. Instead, bits and pieces of relevant legislation are mentioned throughout the platform. 

First, delving into Biden-Harris’s Agenda for Women, it is easy to glimpse parts of Biden’s plan for human trafficking legislature. Consistent with Biden’s support of the Violence against Women Act (VAWA), there is a promise to re-authorize and strengthen that piece of legislation. VAWA offers a variety of protections for victims of human trafficking, such as grant funding for underage victims of sex-trafficking. Biden additionally discusses tripling the cap on the “U-visa”, which protects victims of human trafficking from deportation, from the current cap of 10,000. In terms of prosecution, Biden promises to “end the rape-kit backlog”, which would benefit victims of sex-trafficking. In Biden-Harris’s Plan to End Violence Against Women, Biden promises to “expand access to lawyers” and “ensure advocates for every victim” via additional funding for the Legal Assistance For Victims Grant Program and the Crime Victims Fund. Furthermore, Biden plans to establish a “new coordinated housing initiative” for victims of domestic and sexual violence. 

This is likely not the full extent of the Biden-Harris plan form human trafficking and to be precise, only time will tell what Biden and Harris will change about human trafficking. However, an analysis of their political careers and platform can offer a good prediction of their future actions. As Kamala Harris and Joe Biden have both acted to increase prosecution of human trafficking and help victims, there is good reason to hope that these next four years will be beneficial to those harmed by the human traffickers.