Most entries below contain actual legal discussions of events directly related to Filipinos in or immigrating to the United States.
Remember- These writings are provided for general information only and do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. Each person's needs and requirements are different and require a personal evaluation to determine the proper legal course of action.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Find and Help Victims of Illegal Labor Trafficking

I would like to call attention to a problem bigger than most people believe:  Coerced Labor.

The problem can range from basic visa fraud (employer lying to the workers & USCIS about the true nature of the job) to involuntary detention and physical abuse.  These crimes can plague any group of foreign workers, yet Filipino workers constitute a substantial part of the U.S. temporary worker population, and studies show how the economic conditions in a home country can create additional vulnerabilities to unscrupulous recruiters using false promises to lure people into oppressive working conditions.

All of this falls under the general term of "Human Trafficking", basically defined as the use force, fraud, extortion or coercion for the purpose of forced labor or sexual exploitation.  Think about it.  You have heard of this happening, quite possibly have seen this and may have been a victim of these practices yourself in the past.

Some of the most common tactics used by traffickers include:

Withholding passports and immigration papers;
‘Switching' contracts after they enter the US;
Threatening deportation;
Threatening or using violence;
Preventing contact with outside friends or family;
Forcing them to use ‘company' housing;
Restricting their movements away from work;
Withholding money from paychecks for ‘expenses';

Bear with me.  This is a long post, but with information you can use at the end.

Thousands of immigration attorneys in the U.S. routinely assist victims of trafficking and other serious crimes because the events often relate directly to the person's U.S. immigration status.  Of course, the rules of confidentiality, and basic common decency, prevent attorneys from publicly identifying these victims or discussing their case except in the most broadest of terms without the victim's full consent.  And even then, no one wishes to be seen as using the suffering of victims for personal gain or prestige.  Unfortunately, this respectful silence is one of the reasons labor trafficking is so poorly publicized by those who frequently deal with the victims.

Generally, for immigration attorneys, these are often simple cases, as long as the government cooperates.  The U.S. Department of Labor and the Attorney General handle most of the litigation, while we work to save or convert their immigration status.  Two of the most useful tools granted by Congress for this purpose are the "U" and "T" statuses. 

A "U" provides protection to victims who "have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse" as a direct result of a serious criminal act and assist the government in their investigation or prosecution of the crime.

The "T" is similar to the "U", but is directed specifically to the victims of human trafficking.

Both the "U" and the "T" allow the victim to temporarily remain in the United States with work authorization and both may eventually lead to being granted Permanent Residence.

I must acknowledge the inspiration for this post, the Philippine Nurses Association of America (PNAA), one of my favorite professional organizations, well known for their especially generous community service, both in the US and abroad. 

Last week, at the PNAA North Central Regional Conference, I learned of the Association's commendable efforts to publicize the dangers of illegal recruiting practices and labor trafficking.  Unfortunately, the outreach ability of the PNAA by itself is limited, being just a single organization, but no doubt others among the hundreds of Philippine-American organizations in the United States are also working to raise awareness of illegal labor trafficking.

What You Can Do


All of us should aware of these abuses and know how to provide help.  The victims are usually presented to an attorney by a shelter or community group, but most often the case comes to light through a single individual who has been entrusted with the victim's story.  That is where you can help, by being observant and listening, but seeing an immigration lawyer should not be the first step.

Help these victims by first calling (800) 373-7888.

This is the hotline number for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Blue Campaign.

The Blue Campaign resulted from the President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (PITF), a coordinated multiagency effort to enforce the prohibitions against trafficking in persons.  Participating agencies include the Departments of State, Justice, Labor, FBI, USAID and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  A powerful group that can provide immediate assistance to trafficking victims.

For more information and many downloadable handouts, from posters to shoe cards, visit the Blue Campaign Resource Page.

If you wish to pass this information to others, please feel free to make use of the social media links below.

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