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Trafficking Prevention Month new guidance on civil rights


Violation of both criminal, civil laws

As part of National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) has released new guidance on existing civil rights protections against human trafficking. Human trafficking refers to the exploitation for profit of another person by compelling them to perform labor or engage in commercial sex through force, fraud, or coercion. Human trafficking violates both civil and criminal laws. Under the California Trafficking Victims Protection Act, CRD is authorized to investigate and prosecute civil complaints of human trafficking.

“Not only is human trafficking a crime, but it is a violation of your civil rights,” said CRD Director Kevin Kish. “Whether it’s through legal action or services provided at the community level, California employs a wide range of tools to combat human trafficking and support survivors. I encourage anyone who has been impacted by human trafficking to read our new FAQ and learn how our department can help. Under California law, everyone is protected from human trafficking, regardless of their immigration status.”

California law provides for robust protections against human trafficking both in the civil and criminal contexts. Criminal cases — which may result in a prison sentence or other forms of punishment against someone engaged in trafficking — are typically investigated and prosecuted by local law enforcement. In the civil context, CRD may independently receive, investigate, mediate, and prosecute civil complaints, which can result in relief that is specifically targeted to supporting survivors. 

Under California law, survivors of human trafficking may be able to obtain civil relief — including monetary compensation — through direct legal action or by filing a complaint with CRD. California citizens are protected from human trafficking and may file a complaint, regardless of immigration status. Survivors of human trafficking may also be eligible for a U or T visa from the federal government, which permits crime victims to remain in or enter the United States to assist with the investigation or prosecution of a crime. CRD can assist in the certification of U or T visa requests for cases that fall under the department’s jurisdiction.

In addition, undocumented human trafficking survivors may be eligible for deferred action from the federal government when they are also victims of employment or labor law violations.

According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, there were more than 1,300 human trafficking cases reported to the hotline in California in 2021 — more than any other state in the nation.