Faces of Human Trafficking Video 7: Legal Needs and Rights of Victims
This video details the array of comprehensive legal needs a victim of human trafficking may have, including issues of immigration, family law, housing, bankruptcy, employment law, public benefits access, criminal defense, rights enforcement, and civil actions.
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Faces of Human Trafficking: Legal Needs and Rights of Victims TRANSCRIPT
Amy, Survivor Advocate: There’s a whole lot of legal needs that survivors have in so many areas—debt and bankruptcy, housing issues, criminal history issues—that are continuously impeding victims’ lives to move forward and get jobs and get housing and get financial aid.
Kate Mogulescu, Supervising Attorney, Legal Aid Society of New York City: The injustice of the criminalization of victims of trafficking is something that is so important that we remedy. New York was the first state in the country to pass a vacating convictions law for survivors of trafficking to have their criminal records virtually erased, if they can show that they were arrested and convicted of crimes because they were trafficked. In terms of legal services, civil/criminal collaboration is incredibly important. We work very carefully with immigration lawyers, with general civil legal services lawyers that deal with housing, with family law.
Jenifer Rodriguez, Managing Attorney, Migrant Farm Worker Division, Colorado Legal Services: Sometimes we have filed civil actions on their behalf. Sometimes it’s involved dealing with their immigration status. Sometimes it’s, you know, accessing medical care.
Robert Canino, Regional Attorney, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: To combat trafficking, the EEOC has a unique ability to leverage the anti-discrimination in employment laws of the United States.
Lucila Rosas, Administrative Judge, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: We can take individual charges of victims, or an organization can file a charge on behalf of a group. Oftentimes, they want to do a complaint anonymous.
Robert Canino: We’re going to seek for them compensatory damages for the emotional harm they suffered.
Lucila Rosas: Cases come to us in various ways. One is through collaboration with other agencies and interagency groups like Department of Labor, Department of Justice.
Carl Smith, Acting Regional Administrator, Wage and Hour Division, U.S. Department of Labor: The labor law that we enforce that’s most frequently involved in trafficking is the Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires individuals to be paid a minimum wage and overtime. It’s our responsibility to ensure that they receive the wages that they should’ve been paid.
Mychell Mitchell, FBI Victim Specialist, Memphis, Tennessee: It’s important that victims are notified regarding their rights. Victims have a right to timely notifications. Victims have a right to be heard in court. Victims have a right to be treated with dignity and respect, and a right to privacy.
Kathleen Morris, Anti-Trafficking Program Manager, International Rescue Committee: A tremendous number of our clients do not have legal immigration status in the United States, and it’s something that they generally are very concerned about when they come into our services.
Lucila Rosas: The whole threat of deportation gets taken away if they learn that there are visas that they could apply for in order to work in the United States and to stay here legally. We can certify that they are a victim of trafficking and they have been helpful in our investigation of that crime. And then that victim can apply for a T visa or a U visa.
Jenifer Rodriguez: In the Migrant Farm Worker Division, we work with victims of labor trafficking. My experience is with sheep herders.
Victor, Survivor Advocate: [speaking Spanish] I came in with a work visa called the visa H2A. As soon as we got here, I went to my employer, and they took all of my documents. There was fear, complete fear, because every day there was yelling, abuse, even pushing. It was complete fear very—humiliating. We got in touch with the attorneys from Colorado Legal Services. They helped us with clothes, food, and the money for almost three months’ rent. We’ve also had help for physical, I mean, psychological health with doctors since we found ourselves in such a depressing situation.
Jenifer Rodriguez: We were able to apply for a T visa for him. He was granted a T visa. He was able to bring his family members over here. They are now here living with him.
Victor: [speaking Spanish] And my sense of tranquility comes from the fact that we have a work permit. And this is what makes me feel more secure.
Robert Canino: We have laws in this country that protect us, whether we’re citizens, whether we’re authorized to work, whether we’re permanent residents, and even the undocumented. It’s our responsibility to provide them a remedy, because not only have they lost wages, they’ve lost an entire quality of life.
Opinions or points of view expressed in these recordings represent those of the speakers and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. Any commercial products and manufacturers discussed in these recordings are presented for informational purposes only and do not constitute product approval or endorsement by the U.S. Department of Justice.