Politics

Southland officials reach out to human trafficking victims

Irene Martin is Los Angeles District Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Martin and other officials spoke Thursday Sept. 15, 2011 about assistance programs for immigrant victims of human trafficking, domestic abuse and other crimes.
Irene Martin is Los Angeles District Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Martin and other officials spoke Thursday Sept. 15, 2011 about assistance programs for immigrant victims of human trafficking, domestic abuse and other crimes.
Corey Moore/KPCC

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Federal and regional immigration officials reminded immigrants Thursday that they may be eligible for special categories of visas. The reminder is an attempt to help victims of cross-border human trafficking.
 

One special category visa is the T visa that can pave the way toward citizenship.

Lynn Boudreau of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services says these visas allow victims to report trafficking and, in certain conditions, stay in the U.S. "Within the T visa context they are required to work with law enforcement, reasonably work with law enforcement in order to ensure that the trafficker is prosecuted," she said.

Under another category, immigrant victims of domestic abuse and other violent crimes may obtain U visas. The U visa allow victims to temporarily live in the United States so long as a law enforcement agency certifies they've helped to catch a criminal. Boudreau says these visas exist because her agency recognizes that crime victims who fear deportation or retaliation may be reluctant to help the authorities.

"We're encouraging them to work with the victims so that victims feel more comfortable coming forward and working with law enforcement," she said.

The federal government only issues 10,000 U visas each fiscal year, and several thousand "T" visas to human trafficking victims. Officials say they'll offer thousands more visas in October when the new fiscal year begins. Immigrants who hold those visas
are eligible to request permanent legal residency in the U.S.