T-VISA for Victims of Human Trafficking

by admin on September 29, 2009

At the age of 14, “Amy” was sent by her parents to work in America. She was accompanied by a man that guaranteed her safety and decent employment. Once in the US, she was beaten and forced to work off the debt of the original contract by working long hours in the kitchen of a restaurant under threat of physical harm.

Previous to the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, Amy would have been treated the same as an illegal migrant: like a criminal. This Act was a step by the American government to acknowledge that victims of trafficking have been coerced and exploited at the hands of human traffickers.

“Human trafficking” refers to the process by which people are lured into new situations, often new countries, with the promise of employment but are forced into forms of slavery and debt bondage.

The creation of the T visa category was contained in this new legislation as a means to give respite to victims such as Amy as well as to investigate and prosecute those that are responsible for trafficking.

T-Visa Specifications

The T-visa is a non-immigrant 3 year visa that allows victims of severe human trafficking to remain in the US and assist law enforcement to investigate and prosecute acts of trafficking. One may apply for adjustment of status to permanent legal resident thereafter. Immediate relatives are eligible for subsidiary T visas.

To qualify for the T-visa, however, one must be a victim of “severe human trafficking” either a) Sex trafficking: recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act where the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or the person being induced to perform such act is under 18 years of age; or b) Labor trafficking: 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 involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

The T-visa requires that one be able to assist federal authorities with reasonable requests for assistance. If the victim is under 18 years of age and is physically or psychologically unable to assist authorities, he or she can still be eligible for the T-visa.

Further, the victim of human trafficking must demonstrate that he/she would suffer extreme hardship if removed from the United States.

Trafficking from Thailand

According to Joe Leeds, an American lawyer in Thailand, Thais do find themselves as victims of trafficking to the US and other countries, often times as agricultural laborers in situations of debt bondage that can begin with contract from a labor recruiter. Currently, the Thailand Labour Department requires labor recruiters to be registered. Yet there are often unregistered “middle men” that circumvent the Labour Department’s strict controls.

Respite for Victims of Human Trafficking?

As of January 2009, there had only been 1, 500 T-visas issued since its creation in 2000, even though 5,000 T-visas are available per year. With estimates for victims of trafficking to the US ranging from 20, 000 to 50, 000, these low visa number suggest that not enough victims are receiving the assistance as that intended by the T-visa.

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