Human trafficking impacts individuals of all backgrounds, regardless of race, ethnicity, language, or gender. However, there may be factors that increase risk of recruitment and impede recovery from human trafficking. Some of these vulnerabilities are substance abuse, disability, homelessness, lack of family support, and immigration status. Foreign-born survivors may face unique barriers to services. For example, a person’s lack of English language skills may leave them unable to access services or understand prompts to engage help. Survivors may also be unfamiliar with local regulations, or laws that might offer them protections from their abusive situation. If a victim is being moved often during a trafficking situation, they may find it difficult orienting themselves or accessing help, as options might change location to location.
When exiting the trafficking situation, in general, survivors may identify emergent short-term needs and set long-term goals for their future. Specific needs, and therefore assistance, will vary depending on a few factors.
Victim’s Crime and Compensation Fund
One way to access support regardless of immigration status is through the Victims of Crime Compensation Office (VCCO). Any survivor who reports their victimization to law enforcement might be eligible to apply for compensation. VCCO is meant to reimburse or lessen the financial burden on victims of crime who incurred costs due to the crime. In 2022, the crime of human trafficking was added to the VCCO application. A survivor may seek assistance for the following categories: expenses for medical treatment not covered by insurance, loss of support from the offender, limited transportation costs, mental health counseling, relocating away from the trafficker, or loss of earnings a parent may have sustained while caring for their survivor child.
HHS Certification or Eligibility Letter
Domestic survivors as citizens of the United States automatically qualify for public benefits through the government. Survivors without legal immigration status will need to be authorized as a “certified victim of human trafficking” to qualify. A Certification Letter (for adults) or Eligibility Letter (for children) lets survivors access government and non-governmental resources for stabilization. Adults generally obtain these letters when they have approved T-visas or obtain Continued Presence. Children may, however, receive these letters when they are entering the country and screened for human trafficking.
These certifying letters act as a referral to the local Office of Refugee Resettlement where they could be enrolled in Refugee Cash Assistance, employment services, and educational programs. Furthermore, these letters authorize a survivor to request a social security number. With a social security card, a survivor may access government benefits and services.
If human trafficking survivors are citizens of the United States or possess a certification letter, they may be eligible for an array of services through the local and state government, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and medical coverage through Medicaid. Additionally, Cover All Kids launched on January 1, 2023. This program states that children under the age of 18 in New Jersey will no longer be disqualified from medical coverage due to immigration status.
A survivor’s eligibility for programs is mostly dependent on income. However, in order to complete applications through the state, applicants usually need to supply their birth certificate, social security card, and photo identification.
For survivors who have status or citizenship, a special emergency housing voucher is available. The Emergency Housing Voucher (EHV) program opened up by way of the American Rescue Plan of 2021 to assist individuals and families who are at risk of homelessness and fleeing domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, or human trafficking. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), New Jersey has used approximately 65% of their vouchers. If you would like more information on this resource, please visitU.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Emergency Housing Vouchers page.
If survivors cooperate in an investigation with law enforcement related to human trafficking, they may be eligible for Continued Presence (“CP”). CP is a temporary immigration designation provided to individuals identified by law enforcement as victims of a “severe form of trafficking in persons” who may be potential witnesses. CP allows trafficking victims to lawfully remain in the U.S. temporarily and work during the investigation into the human trafficking-related crimes committed against them and during any civil action under 18 U.S.C. § 1595 filed by the victims against their traffickers. CP is initially granted for two years and may be renewed in up to two-year increments. CP recipients also receive a certification letter that allows them to receive federal benefits and services.
What assistance is available to undocumented foreign-born survivors?
Whether a survivor of human trafficking originally came here with documents and they expired, or they were brought into the country illegally, they are typically at a disadvantage when trying to stabilize following a trafficking incident. However, certain services are in place in New Jersey to assist this population.
To start, survivors could consider enrollment in Trafficking Victim Assistance Program (TVAP). This federal program is run through local administrating agencies across the state. TVAP is designed to fill the gaps in service for survivors as they find stability and wait for long-term relief. Once a survivor is connected with a TVAP administrating organization, they are assigned a case manager. Together, the survivor and case manager design goals, based on a pre-determined budget. The survivor can access funds from their budget throughout their enrollment, which could last approximately one year.
To qualify for TVAP enrollment a person must be pursuing immigration relief such a T-visa or SIJS petition due to the trafficking. Youth survivors are certified by receiving an Eligibility Letter from the Office on Trafficking in Persons (OTIP). This letter can be obtained by a qualified case manager working with the youth survivor through a specific requesting process. Adult enrollees must be screened as victims of trafficking through attestation by an attorney or qualified law enforcement agent. For adults, enrollment in TVAP however, does not mean the issuance of a certification letter and these individuals still need to be enrolled in government programs such as Charity Care to access healthcare or obtain ITIN numbers as a form of identification and proof of employment for tax purposes.
Fortunately, New Jersey has a wide network of anti-trafficking agencies. Depending on your area and age, you can access case management support while stabilizing during or after a human trafficking incident. Case managers can help guide you through locating and applying for specific benefits. They could assist you in collecting appropriate documentation needed for applications. Case managers also help coordinate transportation, job searches, childcare, and some financial support. A case manager is trained in understanding the system survivors are expected to navigate alone.
For a list of case management agencies in New Jersey, visit the National Human Trafficking Hotline Find Local Services page.
Locating and enrolling in the right services can be difficult on your own. The registration process may require you to answer questions that seem invasive or triggering. However, the end result of utilizing the available programs could be stability and improvements for your family. If you believe you are a survivor of human trafficking and would like to seek help, contact PROTECT for more information at 1-866-576-5776.
This information last reviewed: Feb 7, 2023