City Bar Justice Center’s Immigrant Women and Children Project Combat Human Trafficking

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

  • City Bar Justice Center

As a leading legal expert in human trafficking, the City Bar Justice Center’s Immigrant Women and Children Project (IWC) trains attorneys, law enforcement, and social and medical service providers on human trafficking, domestic violence, and other violence-related issues affecting immigrants, as well as on legal remedies. Because trafficked persons are vulnerable and are often unfamiliar with the legal system in the United States, they are often unaware that what is being done to them is a crime and a human rights violation. Persons who are trafficked are isolated and invisible, and they are generally afraid of the authorities. IWC staff has worked with the Department of State on training abroad on these topics, and the Project works with government officials and other advocates to impact laws and policies relating to immigrant crime victims. IWC is a founding member of several city, state, and national coalitions of service providers.  IWC has assisted individuals from all over the world, with clients from China, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad, Mexico, Jamaica, Great Britain, Colombia, Brazil, India, Nigeria, Russia, and many other countries. 

Many victims of human trafficking are immigrants. Trafficking in persons takes many forms—from an abused domestic servant brought to the U.S. on a visa by a diplomat, to multiple victims smuggled into the country and forced into commercial sex acts by a ring of traffickers. IWC helps these immigrant trafficking victims obtain T Visas and/or “Continued Presence” temporary immigration status, which allows them to remain in the U.S. and assist law enforcement with any investigation of the crimes committed against them. In addition to the T Visa, Congress also created the U Visa to encourage the immigrant community to actively cooperate with law enforcement. U Visas provide immigration status to victims of serious crimes who are helpful in the investigation and/or prosecution of that crime. IWC assists immigrant victims who have actively cooperated with law enforcement in obtaining U Visas based on crimes such as domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, kidnapping, felonious assault, and others.

In the case of a client from China, for instance the victim was trafficked into the U.S. at the age of fifteen and forced to work thirteen hours a day in restaurants to pay off the large debt her parents owed her traffickers. She was not allowed to go to school, and the traffickers threatened to hurt her if she didn’t earn money. After she escaped, IWC helped her get a T visa and then a green card.

Volunteer attorneys from firms around New York City are working with IWC to assist trafficking victims from all over the world. The Immigrant Women and Children Project gratefully acknowledges Greenberg Traurig, LLP, sponsor of the Equal Justice Works Fellow at the City Bar Justice Center and the New York Women’s Foundation for their generous support. Project Director, Suzanne Tomatore says, “There has been such a wonderful increase in pro bono interest in trafficking. We are very lucky to have been able to ramp up our trafficking program and increase access to justice for survivors. Having staff attorney and Equal Justice Fellow Laura Matthews-Jolly on board has allowed us to identify more pro bono opportunities and strengthen our linkages with various firms.” 

To get involved, contact IWC at or 212-382-4711.