Three years after a government report uncovered that abuse of domestic workers by diplomats was more pervasive than expected, officials and advocates say progress is being made in preventing such cases.
A Government Accountability Office study found 42 likely trafficking cases between 2000 and 2008. Since then, programs have been set up to inform diplomats' domestic workers about human trafficking before they arrive in the United States and better track abuse allegations.
"This number was a surprise to mostly everyone," said Tom Melito, a GAO director. Most officials, he said, predicted there would be just a handful of cases.
Based on GAO recommendations, a database was created to monitor reports of allegations and retain information on employers who have previously been accused of abusing domestic workers.
Before, Melito said, it was impossible for U.S. officials to know whether an accused diplomat returned to Washington.
"The possibility of that is something that's extremely troubling," he said. "Now, that should not be possible."
Those who work with victims say they're especially encouraged by new protocols that call for consular offices abroad to distribute information about human trafficking and abuse.
It's now required for those coming to the United States on an A-3 or G-5 visa -- those used by domestic workers for diplomats -- to receive a worker's rights pamphlet before coming to the United States, said Polaris Project Executive Director Bradley Myles.
That lets domestic servants "gather information in their language that will help better prepare them when they arrive in the United States," said Jessica Salsbury, a senior immigration staff attorney at the Tahirih Justice Center, a nonprofit that works to protect immigrant women and girls.
If the workers end up in an abusive situation, Salsbury said, "They will be able to say, 'I know this isn't right.' "