The federal government has spent seven years and tens of millions of dollars saving foreign women exploited in sweatshops or sold as sex slaves in the U.S., but only half have received special visas for victims willing to help prosecute traffickers, says the Houston Chronicle. In Houston, home to one of the most successful anti-trafficking task forces and a major transit point for human trafficking, just 67 of about 120 women rescued after a massive raid in 2005 have obtained the so-called “T visas” to help them rebuild their lives.
Nationwide, 1,924 people got services from the U.S. Justice Department as trafficking victims from 2004 to 2007. Only 709 got visas during those same three years, immigration records show. The U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 created the T visa program to help victims as the government prosecuted traffickers. “There is this available protection that our government wisely determined it needed to provide, and yet we’re obviously not doing a good enough job,” said Melanne Verveer, who worked on the law in the Clinton administration and serves as CEO of the nonprofit Vital Voices Global Partnership. In fiscal 2007, the federal government spent $23 million on sex trafficking programs, 279 people got visas, and almost 10 times as many were identified as potential victims.