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Status Coercion in the Context of Human Trafficking and Forced Labor

Anti-trafficking laws and policies in the United States — in particular, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) — define certain types of coerced work as unlawful forced labor. Paradoxically, the TVPA’s operation also enables status coercion by casting trafficked workers as either “victims” or “criminals” once they are removed from involuntary servitude. The prevailing anti-trafficking legal regime subjects these workers, especially immigrant workers of color, to coercive conditions that persist in the criminal and immigration enforcement systems.