More than half of the human traffickers known to federal law enforcement used work and fiancé visas to bring their victims into the U.S. in recent years, according to a Department of Homeland Security Inspector General report, highlighting a failure of data sharing between federal agencies.
The report, released Monday, found that “from 2005 to 2014 work and fiancé visas were the primary means by which 17 of 32 known traffickers brought victims into the United States.”
Those victims were exploited for labor or prostitution through the use of force, fraud, or coercion, according to the report.
An additional 274 subjects of investigations by Immigration and Customs Enforcement successfully petitioned to bring 425 family members and fiancés into the U.S, according to the report.
DHS’s internal watchdog found that traffickers we able to bring victims into the country in part because ICE and DHS’s other agency responsible for immigration enforcement – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services – sometimes failed to share data they had collected on traffickers.
It is estimated there are hundreds of thousands of human trafficking victims in the United States – most of them are U.S. citizens – but many others are foreign nationals brought into the country for exploitation.
The report comes as lawmakers on Capitol Hill examine ways to close loopholes in the visa waiver program.
Fourteen people were killed in San Bernardino, California, in December when a husband and wife launched a terrorist attack on an office gathering.
The husband, Syed Farook, an American citizen, used a fiancé visa to bring his Palestinian-born wife, Tashfeen Malik, into the U.S. on a fiancé visa in 2014. The FBI determined both Farook and Malik were radicalized years before he brought her to the U.S.