U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that the Department of Justice would soon issue T visas. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) has created T classification to protect women, children and men who are the victims of human trafficking. Every year 45,000 to 50,000 women and children are trafficked into the nation as per the U.S. government estimates.
Trafficking in persons involves recruiting or transporting persons through force, fraud or coercion for the purposes of modern-day slavery or involuntary servitude. Victims of this growing transnational crime are predominantly women and children. They are trafficked into a wide variety of exploitative settings, ranging from the sex industry to domestic servitude to forced labor on farms and in factories.
The T visa is specifically designed for certain human trafficking victims who cooperate with law enforcement against those responsible for their enslavement. The statute allows victims to remain in the United States if it is determined that such victims could suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm, if returned to their home countries. After three years in T status, victims of human trafficking may apply for permanent residency. In addition, subject to some limitations, the regulation allows victims to apply for non-immigrant status for their spouses and children. Victims under the age of 21 may apply for non-immigrant status for their parents as well.
Last March, Attorney General Ashcroft announced that combating human trafficking would be a priority of the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice issued guidance to federal prosecutors describing the new crimes under the TVPA, and the Attorney General urged coordination among the F.B.I., I.N.S., U.S. Attorneys Offices and the Civil Rights and Criminal Divisions of the Department of Justice. In July, the Department published a regulation implementing Section 107(c) of the TVPA, which provides protections and assistance to human trafficking victims while their cases are investigated and prosecuted.
Since the passage of the TVPA, the Department of Justice has encountered many individuals who needed protection from retaliation and continued victimization by people who trafficked them into the United States. Under the statutes of the TVPA, those convicted of trafficking offenses may receive up to 20 years in prison and, in some instances life sentences. Earlier servitude statutes carried a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment. The new statutes created by the TVPA are designed to reach the subtle means of coercion that traffickers often use to bind their victims in service. Such means include the seizure of immigration documents, psychological coercion, and trickery.
The victims of human trafficking, who are interested in applying for the T visa, can download the new I-914 form from the INS website at http://www.ins.gov/graphics/formsfee/forms/i-914.htm or by contacting the INS Eastern Forms Center Forms Request Line at 1-800-870-3676.Additional information is available on the Department of Justice’s website at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/crim/tpwetf.htm. Individuals who would like to report the crime of trafficking in persons should call the Department’s toll-free hotline at (888) 428-7581 (voice and TTY).