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The Counter-Trafficking Project provides comprehensive legal services and case management for children and adult survivors of human trafficking. The program has helped more than 130  survivors of trafficking become self-sufficient and move closer to fully integrating into our society. Law enforcement and social service agencies identify Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) as the key collaborator in providing critical protection to human trafficking survivors. International and national organizations and NGOs have invited NIJC staff to conduct trainings on human trafficking and to help them replicate NIJC’s program model.

What is human trafficking?

Human trafficking is modern day slavery. Human traffickers force individuals to perform labor, services, or commercial sexual acts against their will. The U.S. State Department estimates that nearly one million individuals are trafficked across international borders annually and that 18,000 to 20,000 are brought into the United States. The Midwest region, along with much of the rest of the country, has seen a large influx of human trafficking victims. As a major city with a large and diverse immigrant population, Chicago is considered a “hub” for human trafficking.  NIJC’s comprehensive legal and educational services are critically needed.

NIJC's Response

Legal status is the first step for immigrant trafficking survivors toward attaining self-sufficiency and safety for themselves and their families. NIJC guides trafficking survivors through the complex process of obtaining certification and more permanent forms of immigration legal relief. With certification or a T visa, survivors obtain the life-changing benefit of employment authorization. After three years, a client with a T visa is eligible for lawful permanent residence status. NIJC has a 95 percent success rate in obtaining T visas.

In addition to providing comprehensive direct services, the Counter-Trafficking Project collaborates with other national immigrant rights organizations to advocate for additional protections in the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, including provisions that would ensure survivors of trafficking and their families receive critical assistance and support.

NIJC has provided intensive outreach and training to more than 3,500 law enforcement officials, pro bono attorneys, community and faith-based organizations, and health care providers throughout the Midwest and nationally to help them identify victims of trafficking and ensure survivors’ safety. NIJC is an active participant in the Chicago Regional Task Force on Human Trafficking and the Milwaukee Area Human Trafficking Task Force to strengthen counter-trafficking efforts and develop comprehensive strategies to investigate, identify, and rescue victims of human trafficking.