Today is a very happy one for one of my clients – lets call her client X for reasons that will be obvious. After several years without hope of ever obtaining legal status, her Petition for T-Non Immigrant Visa status was finally approved.
X came to my office about 3 years ago together with her U.S. Citizen husband to find out if there was anything I could do for her. She told me that although her father was a US citizen and her mother a Green Card holder, she had been born abroad and was without legal status. It was X’s understanding that her mother had returned to her home country to give birth to my client and then brought her into the US by passing her daughter off as her US citizen niece. At this point I should add that from an immigration perspective, falsely claiming to be a US citizen is about as bad as it gets, and no waiver is ever available for immigrant purposes. Even though my client was a minor at the time her mother perpetrated this fraud and should not be held accountable for something over which she clearly had no control, USCIS has long held differently. So with this knowledge I informed my client that there was not much I could do for her because of this type of entry
I did, however ask my client to go back and talk to her parents to be sure that this was, in fact, what had happened. From experience I know that often times the facts of a case turn out to be quite different than a client first presents, whether because of ignorance or even inadvertent error. Neither of us was prepared, however, for what we did learn. After various steps we learned the shocking news that not only was X’s father not, in fact, her biological father, but neither was her mother her biological one! Rather, it transpired that the client’s mother had apparently paid a family (still of unknown identity) for my client and passed her off all these years as her own daughter! It goes without saying that my client was devastated to learn that not only were her parents not who she had always thought they were, but that she really had no idea who she was.
At that point I began to question my client more closely, suspecting that where a “mother” was capable of such deception there must undoubtedly be more to the story. And slowly I uncovered a nasty history. Throughout her childhood, my client had been used by this “mother” as free slave labor in her restaurant. Even as a very young child, X had been forced to work in the restaurant every day after school until late in the night, had spent all her weekends and school vacation days working, and if she so much as hinted that she was unhappy, was beaten severely. With this knowledge it dawned upon me that something good might actually come out of this tragic story.
A T-Nonimmigrant visa is available in the US to victims of a severe form of human trafficking. USCIS offers this visa so as to encourage trafficking victims to come forward, identify their traffickers and then cooperate in their prosecution. The standard is a high one, and an applicant must prove that he/she was trafficked for the purpose of either commercial sexual exploitation, or forced labor. Certification from a Law Enforcement Official is not required, but is certainly advisable. Many calls and much legwork later, I uncovered a sympathetic prosecutor with the appropriate United States Attorneys Office. After interviewing my client and satisfying herself that she was telling the truth, the prosecutor signed off and we were off to the races, so to speak. We filed the T- visa application package with as much supporting documentation as we could garner and today, approximately 4 months after filing and more than 20 years of living in the shadows, X is finally legal. And based upon her marriage to her very supportive US citizen husband, we will shortly be in a position to file for her Green Card.
While it goes without saying that I fervently hope that no one else finds themselves in this kind of situation, if you or someone you know believes that they have been the victim of trafficking into the United States, Click here to make an appointment or call Attorney Karyn Schiller today at 914 358-1400