Date of Defense


Date of Graduation




First Advisor

Hilary Selznick

Second Advisor

Lucas McCarthy


Trafficking in persons—or “human trafficking”—is a prevalent issue in the United States in the twenty-first century. Since the turn of the century, awareness surrounding the national and international problem of human trafficking has gradually risen. This rise in awareness came hand-in-hand with Congressional efforts to combat the trafficking of human beings through federal law—namely, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 and its subsequent reauthorizations. Unfortunately, federal legislators’ initial framing of the trafficking in persons problem as an international issue—rather than a national issue—led to the creation of a weak legislative foundation for anti-trafficking efforts in the United States. The following paper examines human trafficking estimates, statistics, and vacatur and expungement laws in the states of the Great Lakes Region. In the first section, I analyze state human trafficking estimates and statistics from two sources: the non-governmental organization (NGO) Polaris Project and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). I highlight biases, statistical differences, and structural issues concerning each source’s reporting system. In the second section of the paper, I deconstruct human trafficking-related vacatur and expungement laws in the states of the Great Lakes Region. I examine the differences between each state’s legislation and contend for the uniform treatment of trafficking survivors across the United States. The sample of human trafficking-related data analyzed in my paper highlights two problems with current anti-trafficking efforts in the United States: the lack of reliable human trafficking statistics and the lack of uniformity in the legal protections offered to trafficking survivors from varying states. I submit that two legislative actions must occur to create a more effective foundation for future anti-trafficking efforts in the United States. First, I argue that the Uniform Law Commission should draft model vacatur and expungement legislation for states to adopt, providing expansive protections for trafficking survivors. Second, I contend that Congress must enforce complete agency participation in the Uniform Crime Report, thereby providing reliable human trafficking data for future anti-trafficking efforts. These two actions may play an integral role in better understanding the severity of the human trafficking issue in the United States and preventing its apparent growth.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access

Certificate.pdf (560 kB)