Local/State

Help available for human trafficking victims

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Federal officials said Wednesday they want illegal immigrants who are the victims of human trafficking, domestic violence, or other crimes to know they can come forward and get help without the fear of being deported.

Raleigh/Durham is one of 30 cities federal immigration officials visited over the past 2 years to educate law enforcement and community organizations about special programs available to help these victims.

The federal campaign comes weeks after a man was charged with forcing girls into prostitution in Cary.

Many victims are forced into prostitution or are the victims of domestic violence and other crimes. Officials say it's hard to stop because traffickers often program their victims to be fearful of law enforcement agencies.

"Alice" - who is one such victim - shares her story in the campaign to help people like her.

"The traffic lights, those cameras, they would point them to me and tell me, you see those camera? The police are checking on you. So if you try to escape or try to run away, they will still catch you," she explained.

The help is in the form of little known about visas that help victims put the fear of deportation behind them.

"Our message today is simple. There's help available. Ask for help," said Jay Wesselman with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The T Nonimmigrant Status (T visa) allows illegal immigrants who are victims of human trafficking to stay in the country and get benefits in exchange for helping law enforcement investigate and prosecute the cases.

The crime victim's visa or U-visa gives protection to those who've suffered mental and physical abuse.

And VAWA, created under the Violence Against Women Act, lets children, parents or spouses of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident apply for a green card themselves.

But getting the word out is difficult, and finding victims is even harder.

"In 2010, 2011, ICE rescued 9 victims. I can guarantee you there's thousands if not hundreds of thousands of victims we did not rescue because we were not aware of," said Del Richburg, ICE North Carolina Assistant Special Agent in Charge.

To help, ICE has a whole section of its website devoted to human trafficking and how to help victims. Click here to learn more.

You can also get help at the USCIS website. Click here for more.

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