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ATEST Seeks Guidance on Continued Presence
On August 30, 2010, the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST) first corresponded with Secretary Janet Napolitano of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regarding the Department's failure to issue regulations on the expansion of authority to permit Continued Presence in the U.S. as is required by the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008.
Continued Presence (CP) is a temporary immigration status provided to individuals identified by law enforcement as victims of human trafficking. This status allows victims to remain in the U.S. temporarily during the ongoing investigation into the human trafficking-related crimes committed against them. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the lead DHS agency that investigates human trafficking cases. ATEST highlighted ongoing threats of deportation and vulnerability to retaliation as examples of harm suffered by trafficking victims and their families every day DHS fails to issue these necessary regulations.
Approximately one year later, on August 2, 2011, the Secretary responded to ATEST's request stating that the Department, through ICE, has provided public information on CP for trafficking victims and trafficking victim assistance organizations. DHS believes its current internal and external outreach, training, education, and victim assistance efforts adequately address ATEST's concerns and concluded that rulemaking is not necessary or advisable at this time.
ATEST disagrees. Full implementation of the TVPRA requires comprehensive, detailed regulations or, at minimum, guidance. In its January 11th response to DHS, ATEST notes that ICE protocol to law enforcement remains unavailable to the public at large with no opportunity for those working directly with trafficking survivors to coordinate with law enforcement to ensure effective implementation; nor does ICE's public information on CP address issuance of CP as it pertains to relief related to civil cases. Finally, ATEST remains concerned that CP is being significantly underutilized noting a drop to 186 potential victims identified in 2010 from 299 reported in 2009. ATEST applauds DHS for the leadership shown with the launch of the Blue Campaign to identify and prosecute human trafficking cases, but disagrees with the Department's position and continues to await guidance and proper implementation of statutory provisions on CP.
For additional information, please contact Cory Smith, Senior Policy Advisor for ATEST.