Seguritan US Immigration Articles

Domestic Workers and Human Trafficking

Every now and then, tales of horrific abuse suffered by domestic servants make the news. These stories involve people who had come to the United States in search of a better life, at the very least a decent job, but instead found themselves exploited and enslaved, oftentimes by their own kind.

It is difficult to accept that human trafficking still occurs in this day and age but the reality is that it is quite prevalent. Only a few cases get reported, much less prosecuted in court. Two recent reports of domestic worker abuse tell us that slavery is alive even here in the United States.

Last week a Filipino couple from Bellingham, Washington was sentenced to prison for hiring and harboring an illegal alien. The husband and wife were accused of recruiting a Filipina to be their live-in servant, making her work seven days a week, subjecting her to verbal abuse and threats and paying her only $200 to $240 per month. This went on for three years until she escaped the household in September 2009.

The court papers showed that after arriving in the U.S., the victim’s passport and travel documents were confiscated by the couple, and that she worked 18 hours a day, seven days a week. The case began as a deportation proceeding against the domestic worker until the authorities found out that she was a victim of human trafficking.

The couple pleaded guilty to charges of harboring an alien for financial gain and unlawful employment of an alien. The husband was sentenced to 6 months of home detention with electronic monitoring, while the wife was sentenced to four months in prison and 100 hours of community service during 2 years of supervised release. They were also made to pay the victim $57,000 in restitution.

Another recent incident of domestic worker abuse involved live-in caregivers in Southern California. The Filipino husband-and-wife team recruited workers in the Philippines to work at their elder care facility in Paso Robles, California. Some of the aliens worked 24-hour shifts for less than the minimum wage and lived in substandard conditions, with some of them being forced to sleep in sofas and closets. They were threatened with arrest and deportation if they ever tried to escape.

The couple pleaded guilty to conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens and they were made to pay at least $500,000 to the ten victims.

And who could forget the leading forced labor case of U.S. v. Calimlim, which told us of the Filipino maid who for almost twenty years was kept in the basement and hidden by the family from everyone’s view? The defendant couple was recently ordered to pay the victim $1 Million in damages on top of $960,000 in restitution.

The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act was enacted by Congress in 2000. This law enhanced the protection of trafficking victims by establishing T and U nonimmigrant visa categories for eligible victims who assist in the investigation and prosecution of the criminal activity. Both types of visas can lead to permanent resident status.

The benefits given under the VTVPA are meant to restore the victims’ dignity by meeting their humanitarian needs. By taking away their vulnerability to deportation, the law empowers these victims who in turn help bring traffickers to justice and ensure that civil and human rights are upheld.

Trafficking Victims Eligible for Green Card

Human trafficking in the U.S. is on the rise. For the first time, the U.S. has been ranked in the Annual Trafficking Report released in June 2010. The report stated that the U.S. is not just a destination country for trafficking but is a “source country for people held in servitude.”

Human trafficking may be sex trafficking or labor trafficking. Sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring and transporting of a person for commercial sex by force, fraud or coercion.

Labor trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, and transporting of a person for forced labor. About a third of the forced laborers in the U.S. are domestic servants, according to the National Human Rights Center in Berkeley, California.

To help law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute human trafficking, Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act in October 2000. This legislation provides for immigration relief and protection to victims that include continued presence and continuation of presence, T nonimmigrant visa and adjustment to lawful permanent resident status. A T visa holder may be granted employment authorization.

To qualify for T visa, the victim must prove that he/she is a victim of severe trafficking in persons, is physically present in the U.S. on account of trafficking, and complies with any reasonable request from law enforcement agency for assistance in the investigation or prosecution of human trafficking. The victim must also demonstrate extreme hardship involving severe and unusual harm if removed from the U.S.

The application is submitted on Form I-914 Application for T Nonimmigrant Status. It should include a statement about the victimization and a law enforcement agency endorsement or evidence of compliance with reasonable request for assistance.

If the applicant is under 18 at the time of victimization, or is unable to cooperate with the enforcement agency due to physical or psychological trauma, a T visa may still be obtained even without aiding in the investigation or prosecution.

Immediate family members may be eligible for derivative nonimmigrant status. If under 21, the victim may apply on behalf of the spouse, children, parents and unmarried sibling under 18 years of age. If 21 or older, the victim may apply on behalf of the spouse and children.

There is a limit of 5000 T visas per year but the limit does not apply to family members. If the cap is reached, the applicant is placed on the waiting list in the following year.

A T nonimmigrant may apply for adjustment of status to permanent residence after being physically present in the U.S. continuously for at least 3 years or for a continuous period during the investigation or prosecution provided the investigation or prosecution is complete, whichever time is less.

The applicant must also maintain good moral character, has complied with any reasonable request for assistance in the investigation or prosecution and must demonstrate extreme hardship if removed from the U.S.

Scroll To Top