Visas for Survivors of Trafficking
What is Trafficking In Persons?
As the 21st century begins, the degrading institution of slavery continues throughout the world. Trafficking in persons is a modern form of slavery, and it is the largest manifestation of slavery today. At least 700,000 persons annually, primarily women and children, are trafficked within or across international borders. Approximately 50,000 women and children are trafficked into the United States each year.
Many of these persons are trafficked into the international sex trade, often by force, fraud, or coercion. The sex industry has rapidly expanded over the past several decades. It involves sexual exploitation of persons, predominantly women and girls, involving activities related to prostitution, pornography, sex tourism, and other commercial sexual services. The low status of women in many parts of the world has contributed to a burgeoning of the trafficking industry.
Trafficking in persons is not limited to the sex industry. This growing transnational crime also includes forced labor and involves significant violations of labor, public health, and human rights standards worldwide.
Traffickers primarily target women and girls, who are disproportionately affected by poverty, the lack of access to education, chronic unemployment, discrimination, and the lack of economic opportunities in countries of origin. Traffickers lure women and girls into their networks through false promises of decent working conditions at relatively good pay as nannies, maids, dancers, factory workers, restaurant workers, sales clerks, or models. Traffickers also buy children from poor families and sell them into prostitution or into various types of forced or bonded labor.
Traffickers often transport victims from their home communities to unfamiliar destinations, including foreign countries away from family and friends, religious institutions, and other sources of protection and support, leaving the victims defenseless and vulnerable. Victims are often forced through physical violence to engage in sex acts or perform slavery-like labor. Such force includes rape and other forms of sexual abuse, torture, starvation, imprisonment, threats, psychological abuse, and coercion.
Traffickers often make representations to their victims that physical harm may occur to them or others should the victim escape or attempt to escape.
What immigration options does a victim or survivor of trafficking have?
The T Visa: The T visa was created for severe forms of trafficking in persons. This is defined as:
(A) sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or
(B) the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
The T nonimmigrant status is available to eligible victims of severe forms of trafficking in persons who have complied with any reasonable request for assistance in the investigation or prosecution of acts of trafficking in persons, and who can demonstrate that they would suffer extreme hardship involving
unusual and severe harm if they were removed from the United States.
Is the T Visa available to children and other family members of the victim?
Yes. Children who have not yet attained the age of 15 at the time of application are exempt from the requirement to comply with law enforcement requests for assistance in order to establish eligibility and if victimized by severe trafficking, can qualify for a T visa.
Noncitizens who have been granted T-1 status also will be able to seek
T status for their immediate family members (spouse, child, or parent) who are accompanying or following to join them, if they can demonstrate that the removal of those family members from the United States (or the failure to admit the family members to the United States if they are currently abroad) would result in extreme hardship.
The U visa is another potential remedy, and temporary visa that could also eventually lead to a green card for the cooperating noncitizen.
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