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Victim Support in Case Investigations and Prosecution of Traffickers

A victim-centered approach places equal value on the identification and stabilization of victims and the investigation and prosecution of traffickers. Victims are crucial to investigations and prosecutions, and each case and every conviction changes lives. 

DHS understand how hard it can be for victims to come forward and work with law enforcement. They need help to feel stable, safe and secure. A victim-centered approach to investigation and prosecution is essential to accomplishing our law enforcement mission. Victims who can tell their story and testify as a witness are key to successful human trafficking investigations and prosecutions. Law enforcement may find that trafficking victims may:

  • Fear law enforcement;
  • Not identify themselves as a victim;
  • Not tell a complete story, or will use rehearsed responses; or
  • Identify with the trafficker.

It is crucial to understand these behaviors are indicative of the level of control traffickers exert over victims, and that victims need support and understanding in order to help make the case investigation—and subsequent prosecution of the perpetrator—a success.

When law enforcement encounter a potential victim of trafficking in the course of their duties, it is critical that they begin to develop rapport and establish trust by:

  • Immediately connecting the victim to a victim specialist who can connect them to support services―assistance is not tied to successful prosecution;
  • Taking time to explain who they are, answer questions they might have, and acknowledge and address their fears;
  • Being sensitive to cultural differences and language barriers, and use an interpreter when needed;
  • Conducting interviews in a neutral location only after their needs have been assessed and any urgent needs have been met; and
  • Being patient and giving the victim time to stabilize and begin their recovery process.

Victim-Centered Resources

In addition to collaborating on law enforcement investigations, DHS offers additional victim assistance programs and services. For assistance working with a victim, accessing available resources, or to connect a victim to services in your community DHS can help. Contact the ICE HSI Tipline: 1-866-347-2423.

Many foreign-born victims do not have legal status in the United States, which is a reason victims may not come forward. Traffickers also use victims’ lack of legal status to exploit and control them. Immigration relief is a critical tool because it provides a way for victims to feel secure and stabilize their status in the United States. 

DHS provides three types of immigration relief in order to encourage victims to come forward and work with law enforcement: Continued Presence (CP) and T and U Visas. To learn more about specific victim support resources that will enable investigations and prosecutions, including CP, T and U Visas, and Declaration or Certification by Law Enforcement, click here.

What You Can Do

  1. Educate yourself and your co-workers. If you are law enforcement, DHS offers a free computer-based, interactive training explores different interviewing and investigative strategies. Order Indicator Cards, which are convenient wallet-sized cards in 17 languages that list the key signs. You can distribute these cards in your local area. We have also developed Indicator Cards tailored for first responders and health care providers. 
  2. Get to know HSI in your area. Call the HSI Tipline at 1-866-347-2423 to get connected to the HSI Special Agents and Victim Assistance Specialists working on human trafficking in your area and build a relationship with them, even before you have a case that can be investigated jointly or you have a victim who needs services. Collaborate to develop leads and share case information and intelligence.
  3. Report tips. Call the HSI Tipline at 1-866-347-2423 or submit a tip online at www.ice.gov/tips. Highly trained law enforcement specialists are available, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to receive human trafficking tips and to quickly disseminate leads to on-duty human trafficking investigators throughout the nation and around the world. Anonymous tips may be reported on the online form and via the toll-free Tipline.
  4. Get to know the task force in your area. Human Trafficking Task Forces comprise federal, state, local, county, and tribal law enforcement and prosecutors, as well as NGOs providing victim services. Find out whether or not there is a Human Trafficking Task Force in your area by visiting www.bja.gov. If one exists, establish a relationship and join their efforts.
  5. Learn from a survivor. Watch our video featuring human trafficking survivors describing their experience and the importance of immigration relief. Show this video to those you work with and encourage them to find out more. 
  6. Watch our Roll-Call Videos. These videos explain the importance of immigration relief and your role in the process. Watch them and ask that your department or agency show them to others.
  7. Learn more about T and U visas. For more information about T or U visas, to watch a video describing the steps in the T and U visa process, to download helpful Law Enforcement Certification Guides, or to get in touch with USCIS with questions:                       Visit www.uscis.gov/humantrafficking; Contact USCIS at 802-527-4888; or Email LawEnforcement_UTVAWA.vsc@uscis.dhs.gov.
  8. Show your support. Like us on Facebook. And, if you would like to learn more, contact Blue Campaign: BlueCampaign@hq.dhs.gov, and sign up to receive the Blue Campaign newsletter and news alerts.
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