Shockingly, more people live in slavery today than in the entire 350-year history of the slave trade. Surprisingly, many of these people live in the United States.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, human trafficking has become the second-largest and fastest-growing criminal industry in the U. S., just behind drug trafficking. Children account for roughly half of all victims.
Human trafficking involves the sale, exchange, barter or lease of a person for labor or sex acts. Victims are prisoners; they receive no money and lack freedom of movement. Common victims are farm, sweat-shop, factory, domestic and sex industry workers. In the United States, human trafficking is a felony.
Some victims are U.S. citizens. Human trafficking does not require that a victim be transported across a national border. Other victims are non-citizens brought into the United States either against their will or under false pretenses.
Legal and Illegal Immigrants
Non-citizen victims of human trafficking are often kept apart from mainstream U.S. society. They are told by their captors that the police should be feared and that escape will result in imprisonment or deportation. This is not the case.
The U.S. Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act in 2000. In doing so, it created two protective visas for victims of human trafficking. Applicants for these visas cannot have a criminal record.
T Non-Immigrant Visa
You may be eligible for a T visa if you:
- Are or were a victim of trafficking, as defined by law
- Are in the United States, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or at a port of entry due to trafficking
- Comply with any reasonable request from a law enforcement agency for assistance in the investigation or prosecution of human trafficking
- Demonstrate that you would suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm if you were removed from the United States
U Non-Immigrant Visa
You may be eligible for a U Visa if you:
- Have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of a qualifying criminal activity (like human trafficking)
- Have information concerning that criminal activity
- Have been helpful, are being helpful, or are likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime
- The criminal activity violated U.S. laws
LexisNexis (host of the Lawyers.com website) is actively involved in efforts to raise awareness about global human trafficking. It recently launched the free Human Trafficking Awareness Index, which tracks and analyzes news articles related to human trafficking within the 6,000-source Nexis® database, which spans 120 countries.
A Human Rights or Immigration Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding instances of human trafficking in the United States is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a human rights or immigration lawyer.