When trafficking victims are also undocumented immigrants legal remedies exist to keep fear of being prosecuted or deported from preventing them from seeking help. The T-Visa and U-Visa were both created by the Trafficking Victims Protections Act of 200045 and can help victims of human trafficking establish a life in the United States.46 Some victims of human trafficking have also recently been able to obtain asylum, and an eventual pathway to lawful permanent residence and citizenship through the U and T visas.47
However, all of these remedies require the victim to be able to testify about their experiences, an act which is often made incredibly difficult from the trauma they have received. It is important for lawyers to be able to recognize symptoms of psychological distress and trauma and to refer their clients to mental health practitioners when possible.48
This is an area where Medical Legal Partnerships have the potential to be uniquely effective. Lawyers and healthcare professionals can work together to help meet the medical, psychological, and legal needs of trafficking victims as they seek to recover from their trauma and rebuild their lives. Health professionals can also provide lawyers with training that will help them to recognize and be sensitive to psychological trauma.
In order to effectively help clients who have been victimized by human trafficking, lawyers must build rapport and trust. Sometimes victims have difficulty trusting attorneys and associate them with the government, which their traffickers have conditioned them to fear. 49 If the victim trusts their doctors and nurses, that trust may transfer more easily to an attorney who is known by their healthcare practitioners and works in tandem with them.
Medical professionals and lawyers also need to work together to give the victim their best chance at obtaining one of these legal remedies. Medical evidence is often crucial to obtaining these visas. Lawyers can train clinicians to draft letters and affidavits about their patients, and to effectively document medical histories of victimization of violence.50