University of Virginia Law Students Help Victims

Starving and stranded in the Arizona desert, Carlos, an undocumented teenager from El Salvador, did something most like him wouldn’t dream of doing: He turned himself in to Border Patrol. Third-year University of Virginia law students Sabrina Talukder and Julianne Jaquith helped the boy secure his release from the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center in Staunton, and this month, he secured a special visa for victims of human trafficking.

FBI statistics dating to 2008 show a constant, steady rise in the number of incidents of people being trafficked across the border that the agency investigates each quarter. Col. Steve Sellers, Albemarle County, Virginia’s police chief, helped form a regional human trafficking task force with U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy last year. Sellers wants his officers to be able to distinguish between suspects and trafficking victims. The difference might not be immediately obvious, he said, especially during drug and prostitution arrests. “On the surface, they look like suspects. But when you dig a little bit deeper, you find a lot of them are victims,” Sellers said. “There are a lot of victims that are being overlooked.”

Detainees like Carlos frequently end up in legal dead ends. Unlike criminal defendants, they are not guaranteed legal representation. Some of them, including children, go to court alone, with little or no understanding of their options. Many, in fact, qualify for humanitarian relief or visas because of the dangers they face in their home countries, said Ashley Ham Pong, a lawyer with the Capital Area Immigrant Rights Coalition, which seeks to send an attorney, or at least a friend of the court, to hearings for every juvenile detainee.

Learn more at Derek Quizon’s Daily Progress article: UVa law students help victim of human trafficking.

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