Thursday, March 22, 2007

DC: US Gov't Takes Global Approach to Combatting Sex Trafficking

WASHINGTON – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recognizes that trafficking victims have rights and require services and temporary immigration relief, Gabriel Garcia, chief of ICE’s human smuggling and trafficking unit, said March 20.

ICE, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, “has the unique organizational ability to investigate trafficking in persons with a global reach and provide short-term immigration relief to trafficking victims,” Garcia said in testimony before the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism.

Of the approximately 600,000 to 800,000 people coerced or forced into crossing international borders each year, about 14,500 to 17,500 end up in the United States, according to U.S. government estimates.

ICE is one of several U.S. agencies working to stop trafficking through training to help better identify victims, improving services provided to victims and by public awareness campaigns.

Trafficking victims rescued in the United States are granted “continued presence,” which is a short-term immigration protection that allows certified victims of trafficking to remain in the United States for up to one year to enable them to apply for a “T visa.” Those who receive T visas are able to stay in the United States and bring their families over as well. They have access to federal benefits and services and can accept employment in the United States for up to three years and then apply for lawful permanent residence, Garcia said.

ICE officials conduct their work worldwide. Fifty-six ICE attaché offices help foster strong international relationships, Garcia said. The attaches work with local law enforcement for better coordination of investigations. ICE officials target recruiters, brokers, document providers, travel agencies, corrupt officials, smugglers and businesses engaged in criminal activities at both source and transit countries. ICE also cooperates with foreign law enforcement authorities to target bank accounts, wire transfers and other funding mechanisms that fuel trafficking enterprises, Garcia said...


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