Urges Communities to Use AALDEF Hotline for Survivors in Need of Assistance
New York—The Asian American Legal Defense & Education Fund (AALDEF) announced the filing of its first T Visa petition yesterday on behalf of Sara, a trafficking survivor, under the civil rights groups newly launched Anti-Trafficking Initiative.
Trafficked migrants are not necessarily physically bound and chained, but may be living and working beside us under constant fear of personal harm or harm to their families abroad, said Equal Justice Works Fellow Ivy Suriyopas, who leads the Anti-Trafficking Initiative. AALDEF will work to ensure trafficking survivors like Sara who have suffered criminal abuse can assert their human rights, whether it be through filing a petition for a T Visa or other means.
AALDEF’s Anti-Trafficking Initiative provides free legal representation to trafficked women and youth to facilitate survivors access to human services. Approximately 800,000 victims are now trafficked across international borders each year, and between 18,000 to 20,000 are trafficked into the U.S. As many as 7,000 individuals—the largest group—are from Asia and the Pacific Islands.
Sara, who asked that her real name be withheld, was sent to the U.S. by her parents unaccompanied in 2002, when she was 14 years old, with the hope she could make a better life for herself. After an arduous journey from China, her traffickers raised the amount of the debt owed for her transportation expenses to tens of thousands of dollars, detained her in a basement for weeks, stripped her down, beat her, and threatened additional harm to her family if she failed to pay off the debt. Three years later, she is still paying off the debt by working at a New York City restaurant six days a week, 14 hours a day, by wiring to China most of her wages every month.
In September, Sara approached AALDEF, which helped her apply for a T Visa. T Visas are available to trafficking survivors who have been subjected to force, fraud, or threats, and to involuntary labor servitude or involuntary sex work. Only 800 T Visas have been granted out of a total of 25,000 possible visas since the passage of the 2000 Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, mainly because survivors have been reluctant to or have faced barriers in coming forward.
The Anti-Trafficking Initiative has developed outreach materials in 12 languages—English, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Punjabi, Tagalog, Thai, Urdu, and Vietnamese—which are available to the general public here. To make a referral on behalf of a survivor who speaks any of the above languages, please contact AALDEF paralegal Mabel Tso at 212.966.5932 x224 or firstname.lastname@example.org.