Did the Department of Justice under President Joe Biden decide that "international sex trafficking of minors" was no longer an area of concern for prosecution? No, that's not true: A Department of Justice (DOJ) spokesperson told Lead Stories that the suggestion that international child sex trafficking was not a priority for the administration is "false." The DOJ website no longer has a specific section titled "international sex trafficking of minors," but sex trafficking is still a criminal offense.
The claim appeared in a post on Instagram on July 12, 2023. It opened:
Wow!!! And did you know that Joe's DOJ just said that 'International Sex Trafficking of Minors' was not an area of concern and removed it from their list of offenses that deserve a high degree of attention? Yeah........ Just Happened. What does that tell you?
This is what the post looked like on Instagram at the time of writing:
(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Thu Jul 13 14:12:34 2023 UTC)
A DOJ spokesperson emailed Lead Stories on July 14, 2023, to say an update to a web page does not mean the sections not listed were any less of a concern:
As the Department's National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction and ongoing prosecution efforts make clear, and just as it has during previous administrations, the Department continues to place a very high priority on and devote substantial resources to fighting child exploitation and child sex trafficking, both domestically and internationally. To suggest otherwise is simply false.
The DOJ website section titled "Child Sex Trafficking," was updated on May 12, 2023, while Biden was president. Three section titles mentioned in the Instagram post that had last been updated on May 28, 2020, when Donald Trump was president -- International Sex Trafficking of Minors, Domestic Sex Trafficking of Minors and Child Victims of Prostitution -- were removed and the text on the site has been modified.
These were categories of the crimes that were a focus and not an official "list of offenses" on the DOJ website. The DOJ spokesperson explained the update:
The 2023 National Strategy and supporting subject matter expert working group reports, including the Child Sex Trafficking in the United States, Livestreaming and Virtual Child Sex Trafficking, and Extraterritorial Child Sexual Abuse reports reflect the most up to date information about child exploitation including domestic minor sex trafficking, virtual child sex trafficking, and extraterritorial and transnational child sexual exploitation.
The current DOJ website section titled "Child Sex Trafficking" still states that sex trafficking of minors is a criminal offense with jail time for those convicted of committing the crime. The site says Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, the investigative unit, "maintains a coordinated, national-level law enforcement focus, and helps coordinates nationwide and international investigations and initiatives."
Child sex trafficking investigations present unique challenges to law enforcement and require a robust multijurisdictional response, with multiple agencies playing a critical role in ensuring the protection of victims and effective prosecution of offenders.
A link from the DOJ website titled CITIZEN'S GUIDE TO U.S. FEDERAL LAW ON CHILD SEX TRAFFICKING, updated May 12, 2023, notes that child sex trafficking is a crime even if state or international borders have not been crossed:
Section 1591 is called "Sex trafficking of children or by force, fraud, or coercion." Most people think of "trafficking" as involving movement across state or international borders. However, Section 1591 does not require proof that either the defendant or victim crossed state or international lines.
When the victim is a minor, Section 1591 does not require proof that the defendant used force, threats of force, fraud, or coercion, or any combination of those means, to cause the minor to engage in a commercial sex act.