15th Nov 2016
Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, Fenwick & West LLP, and Google Answer the Call to Represent Survivors of Human Trafficking
Of the 600,000 to 800,000 people that are trafficked annually across international borders, between 14,500-17,500 are trafficked annually into the United States. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimated in 2014 that forced labor in the private economy reaps over $150 billion in illicit profits annually. The ILO also estimates that there are 232 million migrant workers globally and that this number will continue to grow.
Against this backdrop, API Legal Outreach continues to combat human trafficking and represent survivors. For over a decade, we have represented clients in obtaining the “T” visa, a special humanitarian visa for human trafficking survivors that allows certain immigrants to continue to live and work legally in the United States for four years. While the T visa provides some relief from fear of deportation, it is not in and of itself a secure means of remaining in the United States. To obtain permanent residency, T visa holders must file in a timely manner a complicated application for legal permanent residency.
In March of 2016, the Department of Justice (DOJ) sent letters to nearly a dozen API Legal Outreach clients currently holding T visas to formally close their cases, thus allowing them to apply early for legal permanent residency. While this was great news for our clients, we immediately dove into a great amount of work to represent these dozen or more clients and their family members, who also have T status and could now apply for permanent residency.
Through a partnership with the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine who, over the past few years, had represented many of our former trafficking survivors, successfully obtaining legal permanent residency for many of them and their family members—we were able to place several of our clients with their attorneys.
However, the vast majority of the clients recently cleared by the DOJ were Spanish monolingual. We had to think creatively to find another solution to meet the language challenge. Given the volume of cases, we reached out both to Fenwick & West, another long-time pro bono collaborator with Spanish speaking staff, and Google, Inc. (thanks to Janel Thamkul, a former API Legal Outreach board member, and in-house counsel at Google) for additional staffing. Through this collaboration, we were able to pair an attorney and translator from Fenwick & West LLP with an attorney from Google Inc., and match the trio with a client. In April 2016, our agency trained these teams and were able to represent over a dozen clients and their family members, such as:
- Jose, a minor forced to work by his captor-coyotes in the safe house where he and other migrants were being held captive until their families paid ransom.
- Jeannette, a Honduran woman, who was held against her will as a live-in-nanny for a family member.
- Roberto, a Honduran youth, who came to the U.S. to be reunited with his mother, only to be coerced into working in restaurants.
- David, a Guatemalan man, who was trafficked into working in landscaping and hazardous clean-up.
- Lillianne, a young woman from Mexico recruited by an American nanny agency, forced to work for a family that mistreated and threatened her.
As always, API Legal Outreach remains committed to providing social justice for the those underrepresented and marginalized in society. If you or anyone you know is a victim of human trafficking please contact our offices.