Federal immigration officials have agreed to long-awaited proposals that would provide a path to permanent legal residency to hundreds of human trafficking victims and across the nation. The move came two weeks after the Houston Chronicle reported that only about half of the victims of human trafficking identified by federal investigators in the U.S. are getting promised visas to help rebuild their lives, despite cooperation in prosecuting traffickers.
The federal government has spent seven years and tens of millions of dollars to rescue and assist foreign women exploited as slaves under the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act, yet only 1,094 victims have managed to qualify for T visas. None has received a green card because of previously unexplained bureaucratic delays in issuing the required regulations. The proposed regulation would help victims of human trafficking as well as immigrant victims of other crimes, such as domestic violence, who assist government prosecutions. Officials said the delay of nearly seven years in issuing the regulation stemmed from “many difficult legal and policy issues (that) required resolution,” the federal Citizenship and Immigration Services agency said yesterday. Under the proposed rule, hundreds of trafficking victims and family members who received T visas in 2005 or before – could apply for green cards.