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18.3.08

The Trouble With T-Visas

Holly at feministe did an interesting interview with Sienna Baskin from New York's Sex Workers Project. She says:

... victims of trafficking are still seen as prostitutes by the law. So they are arrested multiple times, treated like shit while in custody, threatened with deportation (prostitution is a deportable offense) and sent right back out—with another conviction on their record—into the custody of their trafficker. So that doesn’t work too well for them.

Then they—our clients—escape somehow. And they find us, and we start helping them get immigration status and counseling and other services. However, the only status they are usually eligible for is a T-visa, which requires that they cooperate with the police against their trafficker, which is a huge burden. They’re terrified of the police and of their trafficker, all for very good reasons. So many of them don't end up in the T-visa program either.


The other hitch with T-visas -- and S-visas, which are for people in similar situations with respect to some other crimes -- is that in order for the visa applicant to cooperate with the police investigation, there has to be a police investigation to cooperate with. If the police decide not to pursue your abuser, or decide that they don't need or want your help in their work, you're out of luck. The law seems primarily set up to help the police avoid losing useful witnesses, not to help victims.

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