False promises of a better life and employment too often lure immigrants into the United States without the proper papers only to find themselves forced into uncompensated labor or sex work. With the threat of deportation looming over their heads they find themselves in an impossible situation. This article discusses the complex intersection of human trafficking and immigration and provides information on available remedies for victims.
What is human trafficking?
Human trafficking is a heinous crime that involves force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commerical sexual explotiation from victims. Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery that dehumanizes individuals by requiring trafficked persons to peform acts (labor or sex work) in horrendeous conditions and for no compensation.
Despite the criminalization of human trafficking, millions of children, women and men fall victim to this billion dollar industry. In fact, “[h]uman trafficking is the second largest global criminal enterprise in the world today, generating $32 billion in profits for its perpetrators.” Coordinating U.S. Law… Victims of trafficking brought to the United States are a particularly vulnerable group due to fear of deportation.
Immigrants vulnerabilities to human trafficking
Human trafficking thrives on the same societal inequalities, oppression, poverty, discrimination and corruption that many immigrants are fleeing from. A large percentage of those who migrate to the United States, “do so because they are facing danger or economic desperation in their home countries.” Polaris Project. Unfortunately, those inequities cross the border with them and are exacerbated by the threat of deportation. In tandem, this makes illegal immigrants extremely attractive and vulnerable to human traffickers.
Immigration relief for victims of human trafficking
The United States in an effort to condemn trafficking of persons provides three forms of immigration relief: continued presence, T visas, and U visas. A trafficking victim who is a potential witness can receive a continued presence status while the human trafficking investigation and prosecution is ongoing. Continued presence is initially granted for one-year and can be renewed in one-year increments. In essence, continued presence allows trafficking victims to temporarily stay and work in the United States while also getting access to victim assistance and resources.
The T visa is most commonly known form of immigration relief for victims of human trafficking. T visas were created with the passage of The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act (TVPA) in 2000. Approximately, 5,000 T visas are available annually for trafficking victims who assist in federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial enforcement in human trafficking investigations and prosecutions. To apply for the T visa, the I-914 form, Petition for T Nonimmigrant Status must be completed and submitted to USCIS.
Finally, a victim of trafficking may apply for a U visa. The U visa was also created when TVPA was passed in 2000. The U visa provides protection for victims of certain crimes, including trafficking, that suffer physical or mental abuse and who provide assistance to law enforcement in their trafficking investigation and prosecution. To apply for the U visa a victim must complete the I-918 form, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status and send it to USCIS.