In 2000, Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA). This law helps victims of human trafficking and for some immigrant crime victims, may allow the victim to apply for an adjustment of status.
REMEMBER: No one can:
- force you to work against your will; or,
- collect a debt by using threats or forcing you to work to pay the debt; or,
- force you to work by using threats to harm you or your family; or,
- force or pressure you into prostitution or other sexual acts; or,
- use you for any kind of sex work if you are under 18; or,
- take away your identification papers to control you or your movements.
Definition of Human Trafficking
Human trafficking is a form of slavery, because victims must work or commit a commercial sex act against their will.
The law defines human trafficking as follows:
When someone forces another person by using violence, threats or fraud to work or commit a commercial sex act.
When someone causes a person who is under the age of 18 years to commit a commercial sex act even if no violence, threats, or fraud are used.
Any similar action is considered human trafficking, even if:
the victim was not transported or did not cross a border, or,
the victim is a not U.S. citizen, or
if the victim is in the U.S. legally or not.
Examples of human trafficking?
In one case, Mexican farm workers were smuggled into the U.S. They were then captured and held by threats of violence. They were forced to work to pay off their smuggling fees of $5,000 or more.
In another case, Russian women were recruited to come to the U.S. as folk dancers. Instead, they were forced to work as exotic dancers. They were threatened with violence if they tried to escape. Their travel documents, return airline tickets, and earnings were taken from them so they could not escape.
Victim Status Adjustements
Depending on the circumstances, an immigrant victim of a violent crime may be eligible for a "T-Visa," a "U-Visa," or "Continued Presence" status.
Continued Presence is a status granted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This allows victims to stay in the U.S. while they are helping with the criminal cases against their traffickers.
"T-Visas" are for victims of trafficking. The victim must help with the criminal case against the traffickers, or be under the age of 15. A victim must prove that he or she would suffer "extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm" if deported.
"U-Visas" are for victims of violent crime. The victim must have suffered substantial abuse from the crime, have information about the crime and be working with the authorities to prosecute the person who committed the crime.
In other circumstances, an immigrant victim of a violent crime may be able to seek asylym or Special Immigrant Juvenile Status.
Some types of aid that may be available to immigrant victims of violent crime or trafficking are:
Eligbility for Assistance
To be eligible for aid, victims who are 18 years of age or over must:
- agree to help with the criminal cases against their traffickers; and,
- apply for a visa; or,
- get "Continued Presence" status from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Victims under the age of 18 (juveniles) are automatically eligible for aid. Juvenile victimes do not need to agree to help with the criminal cases against their traffickers.
Juvenile victims do not need to apply for a "T-Visa" or get "Continued Presence" status.
Letters of eligibility for assistance are issued by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Help for Oklahoma victims of Human Trafficking or violent crime:
Oklahoma Department of Human Services
Family Support Services Division
Sequoyah Memorial Office Building
2400 N. Lincoln Blvd.
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
1-405-521-3076 or 1-866-411-1877
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City
1501 N. Classen Blvd.
Oklahoma City, OK 73106-6699
Hours: Monday - Friday 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Tulsa
2444 E. Admiral Blvd.
Hours: Monday - Friday 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
1-918-949-HOPE (4673) or 1-918-582-0881
Report Human Trafficking:
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Trafficking Information and Referral Hotline
1-888-3737-888 (voice and TTY)
Operators speak many languages
The Department of Justice, Trafficking in Persons and Worker Exploitation Task Force
1-888-428-7581 (voice and TTY)
Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Central Standard Time)
Interpreters are available
FBI, Oklahoma City Division