IMMIGRATION RIGHTS FOR VICTIMS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING
January is recognized as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month in the United States since 2010. The goal is to raise awareness and educate people on such inhuman crimes. It is also an opportunity to discuss how to detect it, and what to do.
What is human trafficking?
Human trafficking is also known as modern-day slavery, and it is the exploitation of human beings.
In many cases, victims of human trafficking are brought into the United States legally and illegally, lured into slavery with false promises of work or prospective marriages. Traffickers take advantage of their victims’ circumstances of need, and their hope for a better future. Once the victim is away from their country, family, and friends, they are persuaded into a position of dependence by their traffickers where they feel like they owe something to them. The victims are exploited, treated as goods, and deprived of their rights.
Labor trafficking and sex trafficking are the two main forms of human slavery where humans are treated as disposable goods that can be bought and sold. These include sex work, forced labor, and organ removal and selling.
Severe forms of trafficking involve force, fraud, or coercion, except cases involving sex trafficking victims who are less than 18 years of age (which do not require force, fraud, or coercion).
Human trafficking is a serious federal crime that robs millions of their dignity and freedom.
Who Does Human Trafficking Impact?
2.5 million people become victims of human trafficking each year. Approximately 80% are women, and 40-50% are children. The most vulnerable communities are women and girls, LGBTQI+ individuals, people with disabilities, minorities, undocumented migrants, homeless or runaway youth, and low-income communities.
How to Identify Human Trafficking Victims?
Suggested by the U.S. Department of State, here are some of the red flags that could help identify a potential trafficking situation:
- Living with employer
- Poor living conditions
- Multiple people in cramped space
- Inability to speak to individual alone
- Answers appear to be scripted and rehearsed
- The employer is holding identity documents
- Signs of physical abuse
- Submissive or fearful
- Unpaid or paid very little
- Under 18 and in prostitution
If you are able to come in contact with someone you suspect is a human trafficking victim, here are a few questions you can ask privately without jeopardizing their safety:
- Can you leave your job if you want to?
- Can you come and go as you please?
- Have you been hurt or threatened if you tried to leave?
- Has your family been threatened?
- Do you live with your employer?
- Where do you sleep and eat?
- Are you in debt to your employer?
- Do you have your passport/identification? Who has it?
If you believe you have identified a victim of human trafficking, notify the authorities.
Immigration Relief Available to Victims of Human Trafficking
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) play a key role in combating human trafficking and offering protection for the victims.
There are three forms of immigration relief available to victims of human trafficking:
Continued Presence (CP)
Continued Presence (CP) is a temporary immigration status provided to individuals identified by law enforcement as victims of human trafficking who may be potential witnesses.
The T nonimmigrant status (T visa) provides immigration protection for up to 4 years to victims of severe forms of trafficking who help law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of human trafficking cases. It allows certain victims and their immediate families to remain and work temporarily in the United States if they report the crime to the authorities and help in the investigation. T nonimmigrants are eligible for employment authorization and certain federal and state benefits and services. Those who qualify might also be eligible to adjust their status and become lawful permanent residents afterward.
The U nonimmigrant status (U visa) provides immigration protection to those who are victims of certain qualifying crimes in the United States and their qualifying family members, including trafficking, prostitution, sexual exploitation, slave trade, extortion, involuntary servitude, and kidnapping among others. This also includes an attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the crimes. U visa provides the victim with the possibility of lawful permanent resident status.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, or if you suspect someone is a victim of human trafficking, please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or visit www.humantraffickinghotline.org. You can also text The National Human Trafficking Hotline at 233733.
If you or someone you know is an undocumented immigrant who has been a victim of human trafficking, please call Diaz & Gaeta Law at (678) 503-2780 for a free consultation with one of our immigration attorneys. You might have the opportunity to receive protection under your circumstances. Victims of human trafficking have immigration rights to protect themselves and their families.
Together, let’s take action.