Department of Justice Announces T Visa for Victims of Trafficking
On January 24, 2002 the Department of Justice announced the long-awaited T visa designed to provide a temporary safe haven for victims of human trafficking. In a news conference that day the Attorney General declared that "America will not stand idly by as those who seek to profit from modern-day slavery ignore the humanity of their prisoners and show their disdain for the rule of law."
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 includes these findings: "(1) As the 21st century begins, the degrading institution of slavery continues throughout the world. Trafficking in persons is a modern form of slavery, and it is the largest manifestation of slavery today. Approximately 50,000 women and children are trafficked into the United States each year. (2) Many of these persons are trafficked into the international sex trade, often by force, fraud, or coercion.The low status of women in many parts of the world has contributed to a burgeoning of the trafficking industry. (3) This growing transnational crime also includes forced labor and involves significant violations of labor, public health, and human rights standards worldwide." The legislation promised to protect victims of trafficking by providing a safe nonimmigrant status in return for testimony against the trafficker, with the prospect of eventual legal residence. Let's hope that the imminent new regulations and their implementation bear out this promise.
The Department of Justice announcement makes these points: The T visa is for victims of trafficking who cooperate with law enforcement in apprehending and prosecuting the traffickers. The statute allows victims after at least three years in T status to remain in the United States and adjust to legal residence if it is determined that the victims would suffer "extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm" if returned to their home countries. "Extreme hardship" is the standard that must be met by a nonresident battered spouse or child to forestall removal, and it is difficult enough to meet. INA Sec. 240A (b)(2)(E). In retrospect one wonders why Congress added the still more demanding "involving unusual and severe harm" to the burden to be borne by victims of trafficking. Another question concerns the hefty fees that will be charged to this vulnerable and impecunious clientele. The Form I-914 Application for T Nonimmigrant Status requires a base fee of $200, plus $50 for each family member who joins the application. There is a $25 fingerprinting fee that will rise to $50 on February 19 of this year. Although the Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization (with $100 fee to soon rise to $120) can be submitted with the application, and may eventually, if she can afford to pay it, help the victim find work and stay alive, it seems to me that the government is engaged in doublespeak: eloquently proclaiming its concern for victims of trafficking, and yet making it difficult for them to survive in the United States. This seems totally at odds with the statutory provision that analogizes trafficking victims to refugees with respect to eligibility for public benefits. Section 107(b)(1)(A).
For the implementation to match the rhetoric, the Form I-914 Application for T Nonimmigrant Status, like the Form I-589 Application for Asylum, should be free of charge.
The Form I-914 application for the T visa may be downloaded from the INS web site: www.ins.gov/graphics/formsfee/forms/I-914.htm, and from ILW.COM at http://www.ilw.com/forms/i-914.pdf Interim regulations will be published in the Federal Register during the week of January 28.
About The Author
Carl R. Baldwin graduated from Columbia University Law School in 1980, and became a member of the New York State Bar a year later. He worked for three years with the New York City Law Department, and then entered solo practice in immigration law, which he has continued to the present. His work with clients has included asylum applications, deportation defense, visa processing, adjustment of status, and naturalization. He has also worked to implement special laws, such as the 1986 "amnesty" (The Immigration Reform and Control Act), and the 1998 Haitian reform act (The Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act). Mr. Baldwin is the author of Immigration News Monthly. He can be rached by e-mail at Carl.Baldwin@immigrationnewsmonthly.com.
He has written a book on immigration law, called "Immigration Questions and Answers," 1997, Allworth Press, 10 East 23rd Street, New York, NY 10010 (212) 777-8395. The book, which contains essential background information about how the immigration law works, can be ordered in both an English Edition and a Spanish version from www.amazon.com