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Since 2010, January has been dedicated to National Human Trafficking Prevention Month. The month aims to raise awareness about human trafficking and educate the public on identifying, reporting, and preventing the crime.
Human trafficking is an ongoing issue across our communities, but it is only in relatively recent years that enough attention and awareness has been dedicated to understanding this pervasive, often hidden crime and the ways it impacts the lives of its victims.
As an Immigration Evaluation Therapist, you will likely meet with clients seeking visas due to being in the country through human trafficking. In today’s blog, I wanted to bring together a few resources I’ve developed previously around this and provide advice on identifying and working with victims of human trafficking.
National Human Trafficking Prevention Month: A Brief History
In 2000, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) became the United States’ commitment to combating human trafficking domestically and internationally. In 2010, President Obama declared January National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month – helping to raise the profile of the needs of victims and the seriousness of this crime.
Human trafficking disproportionately impacts racial and ethnic minorities, especially women and girls, LGBTQI+ individuals, vulnerable migrants, and other marginalized groups in our communities. National Human Trafficking Prevention Month is deeply connected to broader efforts to advance equality and eradicate racial bias and discrimination across all areas of society.
What Does Human Trafficking Cover?
Human trafficking is a crime involving force, fraud, or coercion to obtain labor or commercial sex acts; it is a form of modern-day slavery and is widely considered a violation of human rights.
A victim of severe forms of trafficking in persons is an individual who is a victim of either:
- Sex Trafficking: Defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for a commercial sex act or in which the person induced by any means to perform such an act has not reached 18 years of age.
- Labor Trafficking: Defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
According to a report by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG, 2011), human trafficking disproportionately affects women and children. 70% of victims are women and girls, and 90% are trafficked into the sex industry.
There are estimated to be more than 27.6 million adults and children subjected to human trafficking worldwide, including in the United States. Traffickers often take advantage of the instability caused by natural disasters, conflict, or a pandemic to exploit others. During the COVID-19 pandemic, traffickers continue perpetrating trafficking, finding ways to innovate and capitalize on the chaos.
Victims of Human Trafficking & Visas
When supporting clients who may be the victims of human trafficking, there are two types of visas you may provide evaluations for:
- T Visas: In October 2000, Congress introduced T nonimmigrant status. This status provides immigration relief for human trafficking survivors and victims. It also creates a path to Permanent Resident status. T Visas allow human trafficking survivors and their family members to stay and work temporarily in the United States for up to four years. Read more about T visas and who is eligible in my full blog post here.
- U Visas: This visa is intended for victims of serious crimes who assist law enforcement or government officials with the relevant investigations. Not all crimes will qualify. This visa category also provides a path to Permanent Resident status. These clients must demonstrate they have suffered physical or psychological harm due to the crime. Find out more about this visa in my full blog post here.
The Difference Between T Visas and U Visas
The critical difference between T and U visas is that only victims of human trafficking can apply for T visas. U visas can be applied for by victims of a much broader set of defined crimes, including:
- Domestic Violence
- Sexual Assault
U visas can be applied for by victims of human trafficking where the trafficking may not be deemed ‘severe’ – for example, they may have been transported to a new country but were never forced to engage in labor or sexual activity, perhaps due to being found by authorities or other means.
Homeland Security has put together an extremely informative and thorough document – the U and T Visa Law Enforcement Resource Guide – that is extremely helpful to understand these visas further.
Identifying Human Trafficking
In our work, we can play a vital role in supporting victims and providing help and support for others to identify human trafficking in their communities.
These are some red flags that could alert you to a potential trafficking situation that needs to be reported:
- Living with an employer
- Poor living conditions
- Multiple people in a cramped space
- Inability to speak to individual alone
- Answers appear to be scripted and rehearsed
- Employer is holding identity documents
- Signs of physical abuse
- Submissive or fearful
- Unpaid or paid very little
- Under 18 and in sex work
If you or anyone you know suspects someone may be a victim of human trafficking, it needs to be reported as soon as possible.
Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline, a 24-hour, toll-free, multilingual anti-trafficking hotline. Call 1-888-373-7888 to report anything you may have noticed. The hotline is equipped to handle calls from all regions of the United States.
Evaluations for Victims of Human Trafficking
One of the most essential things for therapists is that evaluations for both U and T visas can be very helpful as we can write a report on how the client was affected psychologically by the crime or trafficking.
Human trafficking is associated with an array of detrimental consequences for victims. Trafficking survivors often benefit from comprehensive services to address legal and immigration needs, ensure their safe and permanent housing, establish fair and living-wage employment, and promote their physical and mental health.
Providing evaluations can help victims to feel seen, heard, and acknowledged for what they have been through. They can help victims to feel empowered as they make their next steps toward residency and settlement.
I’m Cecilia Racine, and I teach therapists how to help immigrants through my online courses. As a bilingual immigrant myself, I know the unique perspective that these clients are experiencing. I’ve conducted over 500 evaluations and work with dozens of lawyers in various states. Immigrants are my passion, I believe they add to the fabric of our country.
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