February 27, 2017 - Katrina, a 27 year old Honduran citizen, was forced into prostitution when she was 14 until she was 16 years old by her “boyfriend”. He used intimidation and acts of physical violence to force her to have sex with as many as 30 men each day, while living in Honduras.
At 16 years old, the boyfriend smuggled her into the United States illegally. She had neither a passport, birth certificate nor any other identity documents. They moved to Atlanta where Katrina was once again trafficked into prostitution by her boyfriend and his cousin. The cousin drove her to as many as 15 houses per day where she was required to perform sexual services. Katrina received no money for her prostitution services; it all went to her boyfriend and his cousin. They told her she would be deported if she tried to seek protection from the police and if she tried to escape, they would “track her down and beat her.” Eventually, Katrina and the boyfriend moved to Tampa, where she was again trafficked into prostitution. She was often driven to different cities throughout Florida where she would be left for weeks at a time to work at trailer parks, hotels, etc. to perform prostitution services.
In 2012, agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) visited Katrina’s apartment in West Palm Beach as part of an investigation into the prostitution ring. She cooperated with the investigation and directed the agents to the venues in different cities where she knew under-aged girls were working as prostitutes.
Katrina was not in the United States lawfully and expressed her fear to these agents of returning to Honduras. She was afraid that the traffickers in Honduras would seek reprisals against her due to her cooperation with the FBI investigation. Wanting to reward her for her assistance in the criminal investigation, the FBI Agents referred her to Legal Aid’s Immigration Advocacy Project for immigration representation. At the time, she had just given birth to a baby girl who was likely fathered by one of the many unknown men she was forced to have sex with while being trafficked. She also had a young son still living in Honduras with her mother.
The Immigration Advocacy Project staff worked closely with the FBI agent assigned to the case to prepare a legal argument and evidence in support of an application for T Nonimmigrant Status (a special legal status for victims of severe forms of human trafficking). US Citizenship and Immigration Services granted the application which provided Katrina with lawful status and employment authorization for a four year period. Legal Aid’s staff then assisted Katrina’s son in Honduras to obtain a T Visa, which allowed him to travel to the United States to reunite with his mother.
In 2014, the Immigration Advocacy Project staff helped Katrina and her son apply for lawful permanent resident status based upon the completion of the investigation of the trafficking case against the boyfriend and his family. The applications were approved, allowing Katrina and her son to live and work in the United States permanently. She will be eligible to apply for United States citizenship in 2019. In addition, the Project staff assisted Katrina in getting access to Medicaid coverage after she was denied by the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF). Trafficking Victims qualify for immediate eligibility under a special humanitarian exception. DCF retracted the denial after receiving a letter outlining her eligibility from the Immigrant Advocacy Project and granted Medicaid coverage to Katrina and her son.(Katrina’s name and certain details of the story were changed to protect her privacy. Her story is based on a real life account of the Immigrant Advocacy Project)