The law upon which much of the US anti-trafficking work is based, and to which many advocates trace the start of the domestic anti-trafficking movement, is the Trafficking Victims Protection Act 2000. The UN adopted its own anti-trafficking protocol the same year.
At first, the US law focused primarily on problems abroad. This made sense, according to those who worked on the legislation. The international numbers for human-trafficking victims were – and are – high: The UN has estimated human trafficking to be a $32 billion global industry; in 2008 it estimated that 2.5 million people from 127 countries were trafficked – 79 percent for sex, the rest for other forms of labor, from farm work to sweatshops. Many are children.
(These numbers vary tremendously from agency to agency and year to year; they are also far lower than the 21 million to 27 million global trafficking victims reported by the US State Department and, recently, the International Labor Organization. The discrepancy depends on whether "trafficked" involves all forms of forced labor or a subset of situations, usually in which a person is actually moved from place to place. Some UN groups say that it is impossible to calculate an accurate number of victims.)
The US law required the State Department to include an analysis of trafficking in its annual country human rights reports and ordered the US Agency for International Development to put together programs to combat trafficking abroad. The law also established a new form of visa for trafficking victims as a way to encourage them to cooperate with law enforcement without fear of deportation.