Sex trafficking is a class of contemporary slavery where traffickers use lies, threats, violence, debt bondage, and other types of coercion to force children and adults to engage in commercial sex, contrary to their wish. Under the U.S. federal law, sex trafficking also includes inducing a minor under the age of 18 years into commercial sex, regardless of whether the trafficker uses fraud, force, or coercion.
Sex traffickers usually target the vulnerable populations such as victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, or social discrimination, runaways, and homeless youths.
Sex Trafficking Statistics
- Estimated at $32 billion per year, the sex trade is the fastest growing form of commerce globally.
- Sex trafficking industry in the United States is estimated at $3 billion per year.
- Every year, 800,000 individuals are trafficked across international borders and out of them, 50% are minors and 80% are women or girls.
- The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children projected that in 2014, one in six runaways that were reported were likely victims of sex trafficking.
What Legal Options Do Sex Trafficking Survivors Have?
The Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division offers services to survivors of civil rights abuses including sex trafficking. Witness or victim coordinators are available to give support with accessing services such as housing, case management, counseling, and medical care.
As stipulated by the Attorney General Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance, any survivor of sex trafficking is entitled to different rights under the law such as, the right:
- To be judiciously protected from the trafficker
- To be informed of any public court process involving the trafficking
- To full and timely compensation as stated by law
- To proceedings that are free from fallacious delays, among others
Additionally, sex trafficking survivors can access government-financed programs and services such as short-term housing assistance, trauma counseling, and mental health support.
Forms of Immigration Options Available for Sex Trafficking Survivors
Continued Presence Status
Continued presence status offers temporary immigration relief to survivors and allows them to remain lawfully in the U.S. to effectuate prosecution of the offenders. Only a law enforcement officer can request it on the condition that the victim will cooperate with law enforcement in the trafficking investigation.
These are issued to immigrants who have experienced extensive mental or physical abuse that is stipulated by the Trafficking and Violence Protection Act 2000 (TVPA). That includes sex trafficking or any other crime that violates domestic laws in the United States. To gain U Visa Eligibility, a survivor must be willing to cooperate or have cooperated with the criminal investigation.
Survivors can petition for a T Visa themselves only if they cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation. To receive a T Visa, the victim must cooperate with any requests for help in the prosecution or investigation of any trafficking acts.
If a survivor of sex trafficking fears that he/she may be victimized on their arrival back home, asylum can be another legal option. A year after being granted asylum, an asylee has the possibility of adjusting to permanent resident status.
Benefits of The Immigration Options
- Beneficiaries of the immigration support mentioned above qualify for authorization of employment and all the services and benefits accessible to trafficking victims.
- The U Visa and T Visa offer short-term lawful immigration status, with the possibility of adjusting to legal permanent resident status.
In sum, to effectually fight sex trafficking and reinforce future security, it’s necessary to indict traffickers and restore victims. Ensuring that survivors access the legal options available is just one way of safeguarding effective rehabilitation.
Brian Kent is an attorney at law and a sponsor of AbuseGuardian.com. He graduated with a law degree from Philadelphia’s Temple University, and served as a criminal prosecutor in the Sex Crimes Unit of Montgomery County’s District Attorney’s Office.