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State Letter #08-09

Notification to State Refugee Coordinators and Refugee Health Coordinators of Issuances of Certifications/Eligibility letters to Victims of a Severe Form of Trafficking in Persons

Published: July 15, 2008
Types:
State Letter
Tags:
eligibility, trafficking victims, certification

TO: STATE REFUGEE COORDINATORS
WILSON-FISH AGENCIES
REFUGEE HEALTH COORDINATORS
OTHER INTERESTED PARTIES

FROM: David H. Siegel
Acting Director
Office of Refugee Resettlement

SUBJECT: Notification to State Refugee Coordinators and Refugee Health Coordinators of Issuances of Certifications/Eligibility letters to Victims of a Severe Form of Trafficking in Persons

The Trafficking Victim Protection Act (TVPA), Pub. L. No. 106-386, Division A, 114 Stat. 1464 (2000), designates the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as the agency responsible for helping victims of human trafficking become eligible to receive benefits and services so they can restore and rebuild their lives safely in the United States. The TVPA mandates that adult victims of severe forms of trafficking who have been certified by HHS are 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 TVPA was reauthorized and amended by the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2003 (TVPRA), Pub. L. 108-193, resulting in the provision of eligibility for federally funded or administered benefits and services to certain family members of certified victims.

HHS is the sole Federal agency authorized to certify adult victims of human trafficking. Similarly, it is the sole Federal agency authorized to provide Eligibility Letters to minor foreign victims of human trafficking. Certifications and Eligibility Letters are issued by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) directly to victims. To ensure security of the information and the safety of the victim, ORR addresses the letters in care of carefully identified service providers, custodians, legal counsel, or other appropriate intermediary entity.

Victims who have been issued certification letters by ORR often need the assistance of the State refugee program to obtain services. It is important that State programs have a thorough understanding of the causes and consequences of human trafficking and the needs of trafficking victims to fully and successfully assist certified victims obtain the federally funded or administered benefits and services that Federal law makes available to them. Additionally, State refugee programs need to receive notice of additions to their caseload. Therefore, following the issuance of a Certification or Eligibility Letter, ORR will notify the State Refugee Coordinator and Refugee Health Coordinator about the trafficking victim within their State. ORR will provide the State Refugee Coordinator and Refugee Health Coordinator (or their designees) with the name, organizational affiliation, and contact information of the victim’s service provider case manager or other appropriate intermediary entity, and provide a copy of the certification letter ORR sent to the victim.

Roles of State Refugee Coordinators and Refugee Health Coordinators in Assisting Victims of Trafficking

Victims of a severe form of trafficking may already be receiving assistance through different channels, including ORR-funded services, prior to receiving certification; however, the majority of victims may not have had contact specifically or directly with the State refugee program offices. Victims may request the types of assistance that are available through the State refugee programs; however they may not be aware of the benefits and services available to them or know how to initiate contact with the refugee program, or they may choose not to enter into the refugee services program.

To ensure victim confidentiality and the individual’s sense of security and privacy, the State Refugee Coordinator and Refugee Health Coordinator should not pro-actively contact a victim for whom they have received copies of a certification letter, but they are encouraged to contact the victim’s case manager or other intermediary entity. Moreover, all State Refugee Coordinators and Refugee Health Coordinators should ensure that refugee program staff and all cooperative offices are fully informed of the eligibility status of certified victims of human trafficking. If the State refugee program encounters difficulty enrolling eligible victims into appropriate benefit programs and/or services, please notify the victim verification line immediately at 1-866-401-5510.

If you have questions about any of the information in this State Letter, please call Maggie Wynne, Director of the ORR Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division, at 202-401-4664.