Its thanksgiving in half an hour –probably will be by the time this publishes- and I am left with a swirling pool of thoughts. On the one hand this week has marked multiple school shootings, riots, and sewn racial divide in my own country. Something I don’t want to see. I believe in progress and mistakes will always be made its how we respond that matters. On the other hand it’s hard to be thankful and enjoy this holiday season knowing the toll it will take on millions of people living in slavery, poverty, and war torn refugee societies.
Don’t get me wrong. I have a lot to be thankful for. My life is in all reality at the best point it has been in years. Work is going exceptional and I’ve scheduled the last of the classes for degree number two to graduate this coming summer. I remind myself daily of the words of St Augustine.
So what I am thankful for today, is my country. Problems aside, we make strides daily. Let’s talk T-visa. The T-visa is an interesting piece of legislation. One of the problems with trafficking cases is that the victims are often no longer in the country when it comes time to prosecute the traffickers. This is interestingly, a problem that occurs worldwide (and in some of the lower tier countries actively deporting victims for the sake of stopping trials does occur). The T-visa is a two pronged idea. It grants victims a visa to stay in the country. Not just the victims though, victims often have families in another countries. Many of them get sucked into trafficking by willingly immigrating thinking they can send money back home. Instead they become slaves who daily hear their families threatened. The T-visa allows for the family members to come into the countries as well. They just have to make it to a US Embassy in their home country. The other side of the T-Visa? It requires that victims take the stand against their captors and traffickers. Now, personally I would be a fan of losing the second requirement. I understand it though. Trafficking cases are hard to prosecute as it is and without victims it’s near impossible. The T-visa was sort of a first of its kind effort. A government truly taking measure to aid the people who had fallen victim within its borders.
Now it is not without its problems. The law allows for Five Thousand T-Visas to be issued yearly. In its history since it was passed through congress in 2001, it has not been issued to five thousand people in a year. In fiscal year 2012-2013 including victims and family members it was issued to less than two thousand people. In total from 2002-2012, including family members, less than 5 thousand visas have been approved. –That’s less than the amount allowed per year-
Why is this the situation? In many cases because trafficking victims are terrified of law enforcement and terrified of their traffickers. Some don’t talk out of fear the traffickers will make good on all the threats they’ve been making to the victims. Other victims don’t speak because they’re afraid police will charge them with criminal offenses (another bit of fear instilled by traffickers). Some victims are afraid the law enforcement might be working for their traffickers, which is most regrettably true in some circumstances. You also have to consider that some of them just want to leave their victimization behind. The atrocities, the torture, and the shame. Psychologically many just can’t stand to face their captors again.
All of that said, the T-Visa is a beautiful piece of legislation. It was an attempt, progress, a step forward and for the most part we seem to be on an upward trend of approvals.
If you’re interested in learning more about the T-Visa please look here and here for official gov webpages.
Stay Tuned to the blog currently planned: Organ Trafficking and a discussion on how trafficking cells actually function.