'Innocent Victims' or 'Criminal Aliens?': A Critique of Trafficking Discourse and Policy in the United States
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Human trafficking is a global phenomenon with important implications for conceptualizations of citizenship, gender and sovereignty. The approaches by the US government and many academic studies of trafficking are based upon understandings of trafficked persons as "victims" and methods for identifying the trafficked that prevent them from being identified or self-identifying. These "victim" stereotypes reproduce inaccurate and unethical gender norms and limits of political community that devalue the lives of the trafficked. Problems with trafficking efforts extend beyond issues of identification. The ideologies of human rights and security are unnecessarily injected in anti-trafficking discourse and policy at the expense of providing support for the trafficked. US immigration policies are overly restrictive to the point of putting relief from trafficking out of reach of trafficked persons and actually facilitating trafficking. In place of status quo anti-trafficking efforts, this thesis provides recommendations for scholars and policymakers to re-prioritize the support of the trafficked.