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Human Trafficking Victims

Overview of Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery. It is a crime that involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to recruit, harbor, transport, provide or obtain a person for the purposes of sexual or labor exploitation. Victims of human trafficking are young children, teenagers, men, and women. Approximately 800,000 victims annually are trafficked across international borders world wide, and between 14,500 and 17,500 of those victims are trafficked into the United States (U.S.), according to the U.S. Department of State.

After drug dealing, trafficking humans is tied with arms dealing as the second largest criminal industry in the world, and is the fastest growing.

Many victims of human trafficking are forced to work in prostitution or the sex entertainment industry; but trafficking also occurs in forms of labor exploitation, such as domestic servitude, restaurant work, janitorial work, sweatshop factory work, and migrant agricultural work.

Traffickers use various techniques to instill fear in victims and to keep them enslaved. Some traffickers keep their victims under lock and key. However, the more frequent practice to use less obvious techniques include:

  • Debt bonding – financial obligations, honor-bound to satisfy debt
  • Isolation from public – limiting contact with outsiders and making sure that any contact is monitored or superficial in nature
  • Isolation from family members and members of their ethnic and religious community
  • Confiscation of passports, visa and/or identification documents
  • Use or threat of violence toward victims and/or families of the victims
  • The threat of shaming victims by exposing circumstances to family
  • Telling victims they will be imprisoned or deported for immigration violations if they contact authorities
  • Control of the victims’ money, e.g., holding their money for “safe keeping"

In October 2000, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) made human trafficking a Federal crime. It was enacted to prevent human trafficking overseas, to protect victims and help them rebuild their lives in the U.S., and to prosecute traffickers of humans under Federal penalties. Prior to 2000, no comprehensive Federal law existed to protect victims of trafficking or to prosecute their traffickers.

Benefits and Services Available

Trafficking victims and their eligible family members may receive benefits and services as provided under the TVPA and Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2003 (TVPRA) to the same extent as refugees. These benefits and services are federally-funded and individuals must be certified as trafficking victims by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement. To receive certification, victims of trafficking must be willing to assist with the investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases and have completed a bona fide application for a T Visa or have received continued presence status from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in order to contribute to the prosecution of human traffickers. Once they have met these certification requirements, victims of trafficking will receive an official letter of certification from the ORR. Eligible family members of trafficking victims must hold a Derivative T Visa. Children victims of trafficking under the age of 18 do not need to be certified in order to receive services and benefits. ORR issues a letter stating that a child is a victim of a severe form of trafficking and is therefore eligible for benefits.

In addition to federal program benefits under TVPRA, there is a state-funded program for trafficking victims who have not yet been certified by ORR. Senate Bill 1569 (Chapter 672, Statutes of 2006) extended eligibility for benefits and services to noncertified victims of human trafficking and other serious crimes to the same extent as refugees, effective January 1, 2007. For more information and eligibility requirements for the state-funded Trafficking and Crime Victims Assistance Program (TCVAP), see All County Letter No. 06-60 or the Refugee Programs Bureau Human Trafficking Fact Sheet.

Benefits and services available to certified trafficking victims and victims eligible for TCVAP, and their eligible family members, include cash assistance, food assistance, medical assistance, and social services to assist with adjustment and facilitate self-sufficiency. These individuals must still meet income and resource requirements.

Minors who are in the U.S. and are identified as a trafficking victim by ORR are eligible to participate in the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URM) program. The URM program provides foster care and resettlement services to minors who are refugees, asylees, or trafficking victims, and are in the U.S. alone without a parent or close relative willing or able to care for them. In California, minors are served in the URM program through Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County (Northern Region) and Crittenton Services for Families and Children in Orange County (Southern Region) who works in partnership with Luthern Immigration and Refugee Services.

Grants for the Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking Regional Program

On July 6, 2011, the federal Administration for Children and Families awarded $3 million in grants to eleven organizations in the U.S. for its Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking Regional Program. These three-year grants are to increase the identification and protection of human trafficking victims and to increase public awareness about human trafficking. The grantees are responsible for leading or participating in an anti-human trafficking coalition, conducting public awareness activities, and providing training and technical assistance on human trafficking issues. Each grantee must sub-award at least 60 percent of grant funds received to local organizations that can identify and/or work with victims of human trafficking. The grantees in California are:

Related Information/Resources

Program Policy and Procedure Letters and Notices

(All County Letters (ACL)/All County Information Notices (ACIN))

  • ACL 09-49 (September 30, 2009)
    New Aid And Alien Eligibility Codes For The Trafficking And Crime Victims Assistance Program
  • ACIN I-27-09 (April 6, 2009)
    Final Regulations on State-Funded Benefits for Victims of Human Trafficking, Domestic Violence or Other Serious Crimes
  • ACL 08-15 (April 4, 2008)
    Department of Homeland Security Interim Final Rule on New Classification for Victims of Criminal Activity; Eligibility for "U" Nonimmigrant Status
  • ACIN 1-41-07 (August 8, 2007)
    Senate Bill 1569 (Chapter 672, Statutes of 2006) Post Implementation Questions and Answers
  • ACL 06-60 (December 21, 2006)
    Eligibility for Aid and Services for Noncitizen Victims of Human Trafficking, Domestic Violence, and Other Serious Crimes (Senate Bill 1569, Chapter 672, Statutes of 2006), effective January 1, 2007
  • ACL 05-08 (April 1, 2005)
    Expansion Of Eligibility For Relatives Of Victims Of Severe Forms Of Trafficking In Persons Under The Food Stamp Program Effective December 19, 2003
  • ACL 04-38 (September 23, 2004)
    The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) Of 2003 - Eligibility For Benefits And Services Extended To Certain Family Members Of Victims Of A Severe Form Of Trafficking In Persons
  • ACIN I-24-02 (March 21, 2002)
    Trafficking Victims - Removal Of Expiration Date From Certification Letters For Adults And Eligibility Letters For Children
  • ACL 02-28 (March 18, 2002)
    Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 Eligibility To Food Stamp And CalWORKs, Effective January 24, 2000
  • ACL 01-58 (August 30, 2001)
    The Trafficking Victims Protection Act Of 2000