- Victim Assistance Program (PDF - 2 pages. 737 KB)
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents investigate a variety of federal crimes, including human trafficking. This information will help you understand your rights under federal law as a victim of human trafficking in the United States as well as assistance that is available to you throughout the investigation and beyond. If you have questions at any time, we encourage you to contact your ICE case agent or the ICE Victim Assistance Coordinator.
The Crime of Human Trafficking
Human trafficking is modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.
Human trafficking victims are found in all legitimate and illegitimate labor sectors, including sweat shops, agricultural fields, restaurants, hotels, massage parlors, and domestic service. If you have been forced or deceived into working against your will and are unable or afraid to leave employment, you may be a victim of trafficking.
If you are under 18 and engaged in prostitution, you are a victim of trafficking under U.S. law.
Violence is often present in human trafficking situations, but exploitation can occur without physical violence and traffickers often use subtle methods of coercion to induce fear and exert power over their victims.
How to Know If You Are a Victim
If you have experienced one or more of the following situations you may be a victim of trafficking.
- When I came to the United States I was told I would provide childcare and would work five days a week for an agreed upon wage. Instead, I have been tricked or forced to work in some other job and am paid very little, if anything.
- My employer took my identification and travel documents when I got to the U.S. I am not allowed to keep them myself and have not seen them since I arrived.
- My employer told me that if I left his employment, he would use his connections to hurt my family members back home.
- I work really long hours in very poor working and living conditions. I have been threatened with jail or deportation if I stop working.
- Someone where I live and work is always watching my every move. My contact with the outside world is very restricted.
- I’ve witnessed other people try to escape and get beaten or threatened. My employer uses these people as an “example” of what will happen to others if we try to leave.
Even if you knowingly entered the country illegally, you could be a trafficking victim if you were forced or coerced into working against your will.
ICE's primary concern is victim safety and ensuring that victims of human trafficking are not victimized again. ICE can connect victims to other organizations that can provide long-term assistance and support.
Victims' Legal Rights in the U.S.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act is a federal law that guarantees certain legal benefits and services to victims who are in the United States because they were trafficked. The law provides several options for immigration relief that to be explored with the help of an attorney. If you do not yet have legal representation, ICE can help refer you to a non-profit organization that specializes in immigration issues.
Once ICE or another federal law enforcement agency has determined that an individual is a victim of trafficking, he or she will become eligible for Continued Presence (CP). CP is a temporary status that allows you to remain in the U.S. for one year (renewable if necessary) during the ongoing investigation or prosecution of the trafficker. Once you obtain CP you can also get a work authorization.
A T Visa is a four year non-immigrant status that enables victims to stay in the U.S. and assist federal and/or state authorities in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases. For those older than 18, in order to receive a T Visa a victim must be complying with reasonable requests for assistance from law enforcement unless unable to cooperate due to physical or psychological trauma. A T Visa recipient must be likely to suffer extreme hardship upon removal from the U.S. Receipt of a T Visa also enables recipients to bring certain family members to the U.S.
There are other forms of immigration relief that may be applicable depending on your unique circumstances. We encourage you to explore all options with an immigration attorney.
Other Forms of Victim Assistance
Freedom is only the first step to rebuilding your life and restoring your well-being.
There are many types of assistance available at no cost, including:
- food and other basic needs
- medical care
- mental health services and counseling
- case management
- legal assistance
- translation and interpretation
- English language classes
- job skills training
There are a number of governmental, non-governmental, and community-based organizations that can assist immediately with a range of services.
An ICE Victim Assistance Coordinator can help connect you to these resources.
By mail or phone:
ICE Victim Assistance Program
Office of Investigations
500 12th St. SW, Mail Stop 5101
Washington, D.C. 20536-5101