Pro Bono Help for Victims of Human Trafficking
ABA President Laurel Bellows has made eradicating human trafficking a focus of her administration and has established a Task Force on Human Trafficking to mobilize the legal profession to combat trafficking through public awareness, advocacy, training and education. Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery. It is a crime under international, federal, and state law. In 2003, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act was amended to add a private right of action, which allows trafficking victims to bring claims against their traffickers for damages and attorneys' fees, in addition to claims of unpaid wages. Many victims of human trafficking are financially unable to hire an attorney and need effective pro bono legal assistance.
The Section of Labor and Employment Law urges its members to make pro bono assistance to trafficking victims part of their pro bono programs. To facilitate this, the Section's pro bono program at the Annual Section Conference in New Orleans (November 6-9) will focus on actions that members can take to help victims of human trafficking pro bono. In addition, we have compiled the following short list of organizations that coordinate pro bono legal assistance in this area. Section members and their firms may wish to contact these or other organizations to learn how they can contribute to this effort.
The Coalition Against Slavery & Trafficking (CAST)
CAST is a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual human rights organization located in Los Angeles that has been nationally and internationally recognized for its dedication to the identification of trafficking survivors, the mobilization of all sectors of the community to identify and advocate against trafficking, and the provision of direct services for victims. CAST provides comprehensive long-term services through a three-pronged empowerment approach which includes social services, legal services, and outreach and training. As the first organization in the country dedicated exclusively to serving survivors of human trafficking and modern-day slavery, CAST's mission is to assist persons trafficked for the purpose of forced labor and slavery-like practices and to work toward ending all instances of such human rights violations.
CAST's legal services program works collaboratively with clients, community-based organizations, public-interest attorneys, and numerous government agencies to ensure survivors of trafficking are provided linguistically appropriate, culturally sensitive, and victim-centered legal services. These services include: securing release from detention, preparation for criminal trials, representation in removal proceedings, advocacy to protect rights as victim witnesses and to obtain Continued Presence and Certification, obtaining child custody and restraining orders against traffickers, establishing eligibility for refugee benefits, and filing for T-Visas created specifically for victims of trafficking. To comprehensively respond to survivors' urgent legal needs, CAST coordinates networks of pro bono attorneys and founded the Trafficking Legal Clinic (TLC). To date, CAST has a 100% track record in successfully obtaining visas on behalf of its clients. Contact: Sara Van Hofwegen, (213)365-1906 x 119.
The Freedom Network (USA)
The Freedom Network was established in 2001 by a group of organizations and individuals who bring decades of experience from a diverse set of backgrounds, such as immigrant women and children's rights, victim and social services, migrant farm worker advocacy, and human rights activism. They currently have 30 members (25 organizations and 5 individual experts) in ten different states across the US. Many of their member organizations work with the support of pro bono attorneys. Please contact the member organizations directly if interested, or:
Contact: Suzanne Tomatore.
The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center
The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center serves as a clearinghouse for victims and law firms, bringing trafficking victims together with highly competent, well-trained pro bono attorneys. The Center offers training and mentoring to attorneys handling pro bono trafficking cases, ensuring that strategic litigation in this area has maximum systemic impact. Since its inception, the Center has provided training to hundreds of pro bono attorneys. In addition, the Center's staff has placed 20 trafficking cases with pro bono attorneys from high-profile law firms. By leveraging the resources and talents of private sector firms, The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center seeks to completely change the playing field for human traffickers.
Contact: Martina Vandenberg, (202) 716-8485.
Safe Horizon's Anti-Trafficking Program (ATP)
Safe Horizon operates the largest anti-trafficking program on the East Coast. It has provided survivors with a multifaceted, rights-based response to abuse since 2001. ATP provides direct legal representation for immigration-related issues and civil remedies. ATP's staff also trains and educates law enforcement, government, health care providers and other nonprofit agencies so they can identify and assist victims more effectively, advocates for improvements in anti-trafficking legislation, increased resources and better protections for trafficked persons, and provides intensive case management services. As of this year, Safe Horizon has supported more than 530 survivors from over 60 countries. This includes survivors compelled against their will into forced labor and the commercial sex industry. Safe Horizon is seeking pro bono lawyers for co-counsel partnerships to represent victims of trafficking in civil litigation. The trafficking statute's civil remedy is under-utilized and Safe Horizon is committed to bringing these cases in partnership with pro bono counsel to allow our clients to assert their rights and recover for the harms committed against them. Contact: Dana Sussman, (718) 943-8641.
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