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State Letter #01-13

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000

Published: May 3, 2001
Types:
State Letter

TO: STATE REFUGEE COORDINATORS
NATIONAL VOLUNTARY AGENCIES
OTHER INTERESTED PARTIES

FROM: Carmel Clay-Thompson, Acting Director
Office of Refugee Resettlement

SUBJECT: The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, Pub. L. No. 106-386, Division A, 114 Stat. 1464 (2000), makes adult victims of severe forms of trafficking who have been certified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) eligible for benefits and services to the same extent as refugees. Victims of severe forms of trafficking who are under 18 years of age are also eligible for benefits to the same extent as refugees but do not need to be certified. The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which has been delegated the authority to conduct certification activities, is in the process of developing certification procedures. Until formal procedures are developed, benefit-granting agencies should follow the guidance in this State Letter. This State Letter provides background information on the trafficking of human beings into the United States, the requirements for certification, the documents that victims of severe forms of trafficking will present and the procedures agencies should follow in confirming eligibility for benefits. For a quick guide to the law and agency responsibilities, please see the attached Summary page.

Background

An estimated 700,000 persons, primarily women and children, are trafficked worldwide each year. Approximately 50,000 women and children are trafficked annually into the United States along with an unknown number of men. Traffickers force their victims into the international sex trade, prostitution, slavery and forced labor through coercion, threats of physical violence, psychological abuse, torture and imprisonment. To deter these crimes, Congress passed and the President signed into law the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (the Act) in October 2000. The law aims to combat trafficking through increased law enforcement, to ensure effective punishment of traffickers, to protect victims and to provide Federal and State assistance to victims.

Requirements for Certification

Adults

Adult victims of severe forms of trafficking who have been certified by HHS are eligible for benefits to the same extent as refugees. When preparing a certification, ORR reviews whether the individual has been subjected to a severe form of trafficking and whether she or he meets the two certification requirements, which are listed below. In the Act, the term "severe forms of trafficking in persons" means

(A) sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or

(B) the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

§103(8)

HHS, after consultation with the Attorney General, may certify a victim of a severe form of trafficking who

(I) is willing to assist in every reasonable way in the investigation and prosecution of severe forms of trafficking in persons; and

(II)(aa) has made a bona fide application for a visa under section 101(a)(15)(T) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. . . that has not been denied; or

(bb) is a person whose continued presence in the United States the Attorney General is ensuring in order to effectuate prosecution of traffickers in persons.

§107(b)(1)(E)

ORR will make certification determinations and, at this time, issue letters of certification for victims of severe forms of trafficking (see below). Benefit-issuing agencies are not authorized to issue certifications. Agencies will not need to determine whether someone is a victim of a severe form of trafficking nor will they need to contact the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) or any other division of the Department of Justice to consult on certification issues. ORR will conduct these activities.

Children

Children under 18 years of age who have been subjected to a severe form of trafficking do not need to be certified in order to receive benefits. For the purposes of benefits eligibility, the Act defines a minor victim of a severe form of trafficking as a person who has been subjected to a severe form of trafficking (see the definition above from the Act §103(8)) and who has not attained 18 years of age. ORR will issue letters, which will be similar to the adult certification letters, stating that a child is a victim of a severe form of trafficking (see below). Benefit-granting agencies will not need to evaluate whether a child has been subjected to a severe form of trafficking.

Documents and Eligibility Procedures

As mentioned above, ORR will make certification determinations and issue certification letters for adults who meet the requirements for certification. In addition, ORR will issue similar letters for children who have been found to be victims of severe forms of trafficking. A sample copy of a certification letter and a similar letter for children are attached. Please note that the signature and make-up of these letters may change in the coming months.

In conducting a benefits eligibility determination for a victim of a severe form of trafficking, benefit-granting agencies should follow their regular procedures for refugees and treat the victim of a severe form of trafficking the same as a refugee. However, instead of requiring Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) documentation, such as the I-94 Arrival/Departure Card, agencies should accept the certification letter or letter for children as proof of a status that confers eligibility for benefits. Applicants must submit the original certification letter. A photocopy should be retained for the files and the original letter returned to the applicant. Victims of severe forms of trafficking are not required to provide any immigration documents to receive benefits. Although they are not required for benefits purposes, victims of severe forms of trafficking may have a variety of immigration documents, including an I-94 Arrival/Departure Card with a stamp showing parole under section 212(d)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, an employment authorization document, or proof of deferred action or an order of supervision. These documents also may be useful in proving identity.

The certification letters for adults and the letters for children have a phone number to call to verify their validity. Benefit-granting agencies must call the trafficking verification line at (202) 401-5510 for verification before providing benefits. During this verification phone call, agencies also must notify ORR of the benefits for which the victim of a severe form of trafficking has applied. At this time, the INS Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) system does not contain information about victims of severe forms of trafficking. ORR is working with the INS on this issue, and further instructions will be released as soon as possible. Until further notice, benefit-issuing agencies should not contact the SAVE system to confirm eligibility for benefits for victims of severe forms of trafficking.

When confirming identity, agencies may find that many victims of severe forms of trafficking do not yet possess standard identity documents, such as driver's licenses. If agencies have difficulty confirming identity in these cases, they should not automatically deny the applications but should call the trafficking verification line at (202) 401-5510 for assistance. In addition, for victims of severe forms of trafficking who do not yet have or who are unable to obtain social security numbers for work purposes, agencies should assist these individuals in obtaining non-work social security numbers by following the instructions in ORR State Letter #00-23.

Once an agency has received the certification letter or similar letter for children and verified the validity of the document by calling the trafficking verification line at (202) 401-5510, the agency should note the individual's "entry date" for refugee benefits purposes. The individual's "entry date" for refugee benefits purposes is the date of certification. The certification date appears in the body of the certification letter or letter for children. If an applicant meets other program eligibility criteria (e.g., income levels), the individual then should receive benefits and services to the same extent as a refugee.

Finally, benefit-granting agencies should note that the certification letters and the letters for children contain expiration dates. At this time, the expiration dates are 8 months from the initial certification date. Benefit-issuing agencies should record the expiration dates so that, if necessary, they can conduct re-determinations of eligibility at that time. The trafficking certification redeterminations MUST be conducted at the end of the 8-month period, regardless of other benefits program redetermination schedules. ORR intends to issue follow-up certification letters if individuals continue to meet the statutory certification requirements.

Highlights of Eligibility Procedures

When a victim of a severe form of trafficking applies for benefits, benefit-granting agencies should follow their normal procedures for refugees except agencies should:

(1) Accept the original certification letter or letter for children in place of INS documentation. Victims of severe forms of trafficking are not required to provide any documentation of their immigration status.

(2) Call the trafficking verification line at (202) 401-5510 to confirm the validity of the certification letter or similar letter for children and to notify ORR of the benefits for which the individual has applied. (Note: At this time, SAVE does not contain information about victims of severe forms of trafficking. Until further notice, do not contact SAVE concerning victims of severe forms of trafficking.)

(3) Note the "entry date" for refugee benefits purposes. The individual's "entry date" for refugee benefits purposes is the certification date, which appears in the body of the certification letter or letter for children.

(4) Issue benefits to the same extent as a refugee, provided the victim of a severe form of trafficking meets other program eligibility criteria (e.g., income levels).

(5) Record the expiration date of the certification letter or letter for children so that benefit-granting agencies will be prepared to conduct re-determinations of eligibility at that time.

Individuals without Certification

At this time, ORR is in the process of developing procedures under which an individual may apply for certification as a victim of a severe form of trafficking. Until formal procedures are developed, requests for certification are being handled on a case-by-case basis. If benefit-granting agencies encounter an individual that they believe may meet the definition in the Act, they should call Michael Jewell at (202) 401-4561, Neil Kromash at (202) 401-5702 or their State Analyst. If agencies encounter a child that they believe has been subjected to a severe form of trafficking, they should call Loren Bussert at (202) 401-4732.

Agencies should note that certification is not automatic. ORR must consult with various offices at the Department of Justice (DOJ) prior to a certification. Therefore, in order to expedite the process, agencies may want to contact Lorna Grenadier, DOJ, Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division at (202) 616-3807.

If you have questions about any of the information in this State Letter, please call Anna Marie Bena at (202) 260-5186.