The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act was enacted in October 2000. As defined by this law, victims of human trafficking can be divided into three populations:
- Children under age 18 induced into commercial sex.
- Adults aged 18 or over induced into commercial sex through force, fraud, or coercion.
- Children and adults induced to perform labor or services through force, fraud, or coercion.
The first federal prosecution to occur in the United States after this legislation was enacted occurred in Anchorage, Alaska. AIJ staff worked with the FBI, US Attorney’s Office and the Immigration and Naturalization Service to ensure that the 7 victims received access to safety and protection.
Victims of human trafficking are frequently lured by false promises of a lucrative job, stability, education, or a loving relationship. Victims can be men or women, adults or children, foreign nationals or U.S. citizens. Victims have diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, varied levels of education, and may have immigration documents or be undocumented. Traffickers target people who may be more vulnerable because they are runaway and homeless youth, as well as victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, war or conflict, or social discrimination. Foreign nationals who have paid significant recruitment and travel fees often become highly indebted to traffickers or other intermediaries. Traffickers control and manipulate these individuals by leveraging the non-portability of many work visas as well as the victims’ lack of familiarity with surroundings, laws and rights, language fluency, and cultural understanding.
Victims face many challenges in accessing help. Their traffickers may confiscate their identification documents and money. They may not speak English. They may not know where they are, because they have been moved frequently. They are often not allowed to communicate with family or friends. And they may have trouble trusting others, due to their traffickers’ manipulation and control tactics.
Common Work and Living Conditions: The individual(s) in question
- Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
- Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts
- Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp / manager
- Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
- Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
- Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
- Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
- Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
- High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)
Poor Physical Health
- Appears malnourished
- Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture
Lack of Control
- Has few or no personal possessions
- Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
- Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
- Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)
This list is not exhaustive and represents only a selection of possible indicators. Also, the red flags in this list may not be present in all trafficking cases and are not cumulative. Learn more at www.traffickingresourcecenter.org; www.polarisproject.org. Human trafficking can take place in many different ways, including forced labor and sexual exploitation. If you believe you may be experiencing trafficking, or for more information on identifying and reporting potential trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s hotline at 1-888-373-7888, or text “HELP” or “INFO” to 233733.
AIJ staff provides comprehensive services to survivors of human trafficking, including US citizens, immigrants and youth. AIJ’s services for trafficking survivors are free, and include trauma-informed legal advocacy, legal representation, and assistance in accessing social services.
AIJ specializes in assisting survivors get access to unique protections available to immigrant victims of human trafficking. These protections include:
- Visas for immigrant victims of human trafficking
Assistance in applying for documents for immigrants who have been trafficked into or within the United States, protecting them and allowing them to assist in investigation/prosecution of the trafficker
- Continued Presence for immigrant victims of human trafficking
Advocacy to obtain temporary immigration protections allowing access to work and documents apart from the trafficker
- Access to social services
Assistance in accessing social services available to immigrant victims of human trafficking and other crimes
The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA) created two categories of non-immigrant visas, U visa for victims of certain crimes and T visas for victims of trafficking. These nonimmigrant classes of admission provide temporary status to individuals in the United States who are or have been victims of a severe form of trafficking or who have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as victims of criminal activity. This law was intended to combat trafficking in persons, especially into the sex trade, slavery, and involuntary servitude, and to reauthorize certain federal programs to prevent violence against immigrant women and children. It provides the similar immigrant benefits as those available to refugees, with an added path to permanent resident status.
U visas for Victims of Crime
U visas are available to individuals who are victims of certain types of criminal activity, or who possess information concerning such activity. All applicants are fingerprinted for criminal background checks and are not required to undergo an interview with a USCIS (formerly INS) examiner. Applicants are eligible for work permits upon approval. Individuals granted U visa status may adjust to legal permanent resident status three years after they are granted U visa status. Derivative visas are available to spouses, children, parents, or in some cases, siblings of the principal applicant. There is an annual limit of 10,000 U visas, applicable only to principals and not to derivatives. If no visa number is available at the time the application is approved, the applicant is put on a waiting list and given temporary immigration status and work authorization until a number becomes available.
Eligibility Requirements for the U visa:
- An individual must be a victim, indirect victim or qualifying bystander who suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as the result of a qualifying crime of: rape; torture; trafficking; incest; domestic violence; sexual assault; abusive sexual contact; prostitution; sexual exploitation; female genital mutilation; being held hostage; peonage; involuntary servitude; slave trade; kidnapping; abduction; unlawful criminal restraint; false imprisonment; blackmail; extortion; manslaughter; murder; felonious assault; witness tampering; obstruction of justice; perjury; attempt conspiracy, solicitation to commit any of the above mentioned crimes; or similar activity.
- The victim, indirect victim or qualifying bystander possesses/possessed information concerning the criminal activity.
- Law enforcement must certify that the victim was, is, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation OR prosecution of the criminal activity.
- The criminal activity must have violated a United States law or occurred in the United States (including Indian country and military installations) or the territories and possessions of the United States.
- The victim must be admissible to the United States, or qualify for a waiver of inadmissibility factors.
T visas for Victims of Trafficking
T visas are available to individuals who are victims of “a severe form of trafficking in persons.” All applicants are fingerprinted for criminal background checks and may be required to undergo an interview with a USCIS (formerly INS) examiner. Applicants are eligible for work permits upon approval. Individuals granted T visas may adjust to legal permanent resident status three years after they are granted the T visa. Derivative visas are available to spouses, children, or parents of the principal immigrant. There is an annual limit of 5,000 T-1 visas, applicable only to principals and not to derivatives. If no visa number is available at the time the application is approved, the applicant is put on a waiting list and given temporary immigration status until a number becomes available.
Eligibility Requirements for the T Visa:
- An individual must be the victim who has suffered from a “severe form of trafficking of persons,” which includes:
- trafficking to engage in a commercial sex act in which the act is induced by force, fraud or coercion or which is performed by a trafficked person who is younger than 18 years of age; or, recruiting a person through force, fraud or coercion “for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.”
- The individual must be present in the United States on account of being a victim of trafficking.
- The individual would suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm if they were removed from the United States.
- The individual has complied with any reasonable request for assistance in a trafficking investigation or prosecution or is less than 18 years old. Immigrants who are 18 and older should also submit a law enforcement agency endorsement if possible. Child victims under 18 years of age do not have to show they assisted law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of their traffickers.
For more information about AIJ’s services, please call the Anchorage office at 907-279-2457, or the Juneau office at 907 789-1326.