Since 2014, a growing number of women and children fleeing gender-based violence in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua have requested legal assistance from The Advocates in applying for asylum in the United States. The Advocates for Human Rights is able to help these women and children in two important ways: providing legal assistance in their asylum and trafficking cases and documenting their experiences to advocate at the United Nations for law and policy changes.
In February 2019, Board member Peggy Grieve shared the experiences of our asylum clients with and made recommendations to the UN Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women. Peggy delivered the following oral intervention during the Committee’s Half-day General Discussion on Trafficking in Women and Girls in the Context of Global Migration.
Dear Members of the Committee:
From The Advocates for Human Rights’ direct legal representation of Northern Triangle clients, we have determined:
(1) children, even when traveling in the company of migrating adults, are vulnerable to sex trafficking; and
(2) after arrival in the U.S., adults and children are at risk of labor trafficking.
Two examples. One client entered the U.S. as a 15-year-old girl with her father. A family friend coerced her into leaving home. They traveled to live several states away where this friend groomed her to be sex-trafficked.
A client entered the U.S. without inspection with her boyfriend. He brought her to live with his family. Before long, he demanded that she repay him $10,000 he had paid smugglers for entry. He sexually assaulted her. She was forced into a low-paid, illegal job to cover her “debt.”
“No one is going to believe you. You don’t have a voice. Here you are nobody,” she was told.
To help women and girls, victims of trafficking, survive, heal, and ultimately integrate into society and live a life free of further exploitation, a victim-centered, trauma-informed approach that provides survivors with immigration and other legal protections and adequate support services is critical. The criminal justice approach focused on punishing traffickers, by itself, is insufficient to address the human rights of sex and labor trafficked survivors.
On behalf of our clients, the Advocates for Human Rights thanks the Committee for this important initiative.
The Advocates for Human Rights encourages the Committee to consider the experience of our women and girl clients, as well as the recommendation for a victim-centered approach to identify and respond to meet the needs of trafficked women and girls in the context of global migration.