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OVC Initiatives to Expand Services to Human Trafficking Victims

Human trafficking—also known as trafficking in persons—is tantamount to modern-day slavery. It dehumanizes and traumatizes victims and often shocks communities when it is discovered. Victims include men, women and children—the foreign-born, U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents—who are trafficked for sex and/or for labor in both large cities and small towns.

The centerpiece of the U.S. Government’s efforts to eliminate human trafficking is the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) (Pub. L. 106-386), as amended. The TVPA enhanced the federal government’s response to trafficking in the U.S. by increasing protections and resources for victims; creating new crime types and enhancing the penalties for trafficking offenses; and expanding the U.S. Government’s international activities to prevent victims from being trafficked.

Since 2003, the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), with funding authorized by the TVPA, has supported programs that provide a comprehensive array of culturally competent services to victims of human trafficking. Those services typically include shelter/housing, food, medical and dental care, mental health treatment, interpretation/translation services, immigration and other legal assistance, literacy education, job training skills, and more. OVC emphasizes human trafficking victims’ access to justice through provision of free, comprehensive legal assistance.

OVC is announcing two new initiatives, as well as additional trafficking grants, that focus on the goal of extending critically needed legal assistance to victims of this heinous crime.

1.  Legal Assistance Capacity Building Initiative

The Office for Victims of Crime—through its Training and Technical Assistance Center (OVC TTAC) and with the assistance of its primary consultant, the National Crime Victim Law Institute—is developing an initiative to strengthen crime victims’ access to critically needed legal assistance. OVC TTAC will work with legally and professionally affiliated organizations throughout the country to identify, train, mentor and provide oversight of attorneys who volunteer to provide pro bono legal assistance to crime victims. Legal assistance to victims of all forms of human trafficking will be a key component of this capacity building initiative, including immigration assistance. For more information, please contact Shelby Crawford at Shelby.Crawford@usdoj.gov.

2.  Wrap-Around Victim Legal Assistance Network Demonstration Projects

FY 12 OVC Wrap-Around Victim Legal Assistance Network Demonstration Projects
Grantee Location Award Amount
Alaska Immigration Justice Project Anchorage, AK $399,928
Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA $399,980
Lone Star Legal Aid Houston, TX $399,933
Metropolitan Family Services Chicago, IL $400,000
Minnesota Council on Crime and Justice Minneapolis, MN $294,940
Rocky Mountain Victim Law Center Denver, CO $306,233

The Office for Victims of Crime has awarded competitive grant funding to six (6) jurisdictions to develop collaborative networks that will provide comprehensive legal assistance to crime victims. The sites selected cover the states of Alaska and Minnesota; the city and county of Los Angeles and unincorporated areas of L.A. County and Long Beach; 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas; Cook County, IL; and the city and county of Denver, CO. Each site will address the wide range of legal needs that arise for all victims in connection with their victimization, including victims of all forms of human trafficking.

Below is a list of the grantee organizations that will implement this pilot project and the first year of funding. Additional funding will be available for the next three years, depending on site performance and the availability of federal funding. For more information, please contact Meg Morrow at Meg.Morrow@usdoj.gov.

3.  Services for Trafficking Victims Grant Program

FY 12 OVC Services for Victims of Human Trafficking Program
Grantee Location Award Amount
Catholic Charities of Oregon (Comprehensive: Foreign national victims statewide) Portland, OR $300,000
Colorado Legal Services (Specialized legal: All victims statewide) Denver, CO $300,000
Dept. of Labor and Industrial Relations, Office of Community Services (Comprehensive: All victims in the city and county of Honolulu) Honolulu, HI $400,000
International Rescue Committee, Inc. (Comprehensive: Foreign national victims in Arizona) New York, NY (Phoenix, AZ, site) $300,000
Polaris Project (Comprehensive: All victims in central and northern New Jersey) Washington, DC $350,000
Worker Justice Center of New York, Inc. (Specialized legal: All victims in the state of New York) Rochester, NY $281,118
Justice Resource Institute (Specialized: All victims nationwide) Needham, MA $299,996

The Office for Victims of Crime has awarded seven (7) new grants to organizations to provide either "Comprehensive Services" or "Specialized Services" for victims of human trafficking. Under the Comprehensive Service Model, grantees will ensure that trafficking victims have access to a full range of services, including shelter, victim advocacy, case management, and medical and mental health care. These Comprehensive Service model grantees must also help trafficking victims to gain access to legal assistance on immigration matters (including applying for T visas and U visas, and adjustments to status), accessing other civil legal remedies, and providing general legal advocacy on matters that arise as a result of the human trafficking situation (with the exception of criminal defense work). The "Specialized" model grantees provide either legal or mental health services for all victims of both sex and labor trafficking. Comprehensive service grantees will implement programs in the states of Arizona, Hawaii and Oregon and in northern and central New Jersey. The two Specialized legal assistance programs serve trafficking victims in the states of Colorado and New York. The Justice Resource Institute, in Massachusetts, provides mental health-related services nationwide—assisting practitioners with needs assessments and with crisis assistance for all human trafficking victims. For more information, please contact Jeff Gersh at Jeffrey.Gersh@usdoj.gov.

The above initiatives are in addition to the seven (7) anti-human trafficking task forces, which received more than $6.6 million in funding from the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) earlier in 2012. Since 2004, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) have partnered to fund a multidisciplinary anti-human trafficking task force model designed to combat human trafficking by:

  • Identifying, rescuing and restoring victims (with a focus on foreign national victims).
  • Investigating and prosecuting trafficking crimes.
  • Building awareness about trafficking in the surrounding community.

At each selected site, two awards were made. The BJA awards support law enforcement agencies’ efforts to coordinate the goals, objectives and activities of the entire task force in close collaboration with the local U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) and the victim service provider partner. In addition, awards were made by OVC to support a victim service organization to coordinate the provision of a comprehensive array of culturally and linguistically appropriate services to all trafficking victims identified within the geographic area impacted by the task force. For more information, please contact Jeff Gersh at Jeffrey.Gersh@usdoj.gov.

FY 12 Enhanced Collaborative Model to Combat Human Trafficking
OJP Office Grantee Location Award Amount
BJA Ohio Attorney General Columbus, OH $492,026
OVC The Salvation Army Columbus, OH $200,000
BJA City of Anaheim (Anaheim Police Department) Anaheim, CA $500,000
OVC Community Service Programs, Inc. Santa Anna, CA $417,752
BJA Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Las Vegas, NV $499,808
OVC The Salvation Army Las Vegas, NV $500,000
BJA City of Saint Paul Saint Paul, MN $500,000
OVC Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis Minneapolis, MN $500,000
BJA Miami-Dade County Police Department Miami, FL $500,000
OVC International Rescue Committee, Inc. New York, NY; services to be delivered in Miami, FL $500,000
BJA Harris County Houston, TX $500,000
OVC The YMCA of Greater Houston Houston, TX $500,000
BJA Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office Chicago, IL $500,000
OVC The Salvation Army Chicago, IL $500,000