USCRI: U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants

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National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention

Modern-day slaves live among us, in our neighborhoods and cities across the country.  They are forced into sexual exploitation or forced labor and can be any age, race, or gender.  It is estimated that as many as 17,500 victims are trafficked into the United States every year.  Through our National Human Trafficking Victim Assistance Project, the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) combats modern-day slavery each and every day.  We partner with fifty-six hard-working, remarkable organizations to give survivors of human trafficking the tools they need to rebuild their lives by offering safety, housing, medical care, food, clothing, mental health services, and more.  Our robust network of service providers, including the National Center for Refugee & Immigrant Children pro bono attorneys, Immigration Children Lawyers Network, and government and law enforcement partners tirelessly work on behalf of victims of human trafficking.  Together, we provide safety and hope to survivors like Phirun. 

A talented electrician in Cambodia, Phirun’s wages weren’t enough to afford basic necessities for his two younger siblings and elderly grandmother.  Phirun’s skills eventually caught the attention of an American company who offered him a job, helped him obtain a temporary work visa, and coordinated all the logistics for his move to Seattle.  Despite his high hopes, the new arrangement in America did not live up to the promises.  Phirun was housed in cramped quarters with other employees, had his passport and visa confiscated, and was slapped with a “bill” from the American company for his visa and travel expenses – with a 200% interest rate.  Phirun was forced to work seventy hour work weeks, yet never saw a dime as his entire paycheck went to pay off his alleged “loan.”  Unable to navigate his new city without English skills and apprehensive to approach law enforcement without his passport, Phirun had nowhere to turn. 

The strenuous schedule mandated by the company eventually caught up with Phirun when he collapsed outside of his apartment building.  Fearful but desperate, he was able to communicate his situation to an emergency room nurse, who notified local law enforcement.  The police officer who responded connected Phirun with USCRI’s Trafficking project.  Our local partner organization in Seattle was able to find Phirun an interpreter, furnish him with emergency housing, and ensure that his medical and mental health needs were met with urgency.  USCRI engaged a pro bono lawyer for Phirun, who helped him obtain new identification documents, apply for T Nonimmigrant Status, and participate in the prosecution of the company who brought him to Seattle.  

Situations like Phirun’s happen every day.  As you freely walk your city's streets, please remember Phirun and the thousands of victims of human trafficking that live amongst us.  With your help and the support from our broad network of committed organizations, we can restore hope to those living in fear.     

Visit www.Trafficking-Victims.org  to learn more about USCRI’s National Human Trafficking Victim Assistance Project.  Spread awareness about this form of modern slavery by sending this story to friends and posting to your social media.

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