UVA Law Students Helped Trafficked Teen Stay Safe in U.S.
Border patrol car
Human trafficking for drugs or prostitution is on the rise. For many victims, captivity frequently ends in death, but one 16-year-old victim owes his life to two University of Virginia law students.
Carlos left his home in El Salvador because he was repeatedly robbed and threatened by a dangerous gang there - but what happened to him as he tried to cross the border into the United States might be described as worse than the violence he suffered at home.
"He was captured by traffickers and they and took him and they tied him up and put him in the trunk of a car. Food was withheld. They threatened him and they wanted money and when he couldn't give money they told him to traffic drugs," said Julianne Jaquith, a UVA law student.
Carlos then escaped from trafficking by running across the desert without food or water until he found a border patrol officer days later. He was brought to the Shenandoah Valley Detention Center after being arrested for being - at the time - an illegal immigrant. There are only a few detention centers that house people who illegally immigrated as young as Carlos.
There, he eventually met UVA law students Julianne Jaquith and Sabrina Talkuder.
The UVA students worked with CAIR Coalition, a not-for-profit agency that oversees 200 children in Virginia, 20 percent of whom are victims of human trafficking. The coalition provides legal representation to those being detained.
"The CAIR Coalition goes in and informs and educates the children about their rights and one form of relief of their rights, a T-visa, is for somebody who has been a victim of trafficking," said Ashley Ham Pong, CAIR Coalition supervisor.
Jaquith and Talkuder met with Carlos to get a declaration of his traumatic experiences with all of the details.
"That it was a true experience because there are people who fabricate to get immigration benefits," said Talkuder.
Carlos obtained legal status under a T-visa, which allows him to remain in the United States until he qualifies for his green card.
"He had an impact on me - not only immigration law but I felt like he changed me," said Jaquith.
Carlos is now living a free life under the guardianship of a relative. He is going to school and getting help with his language skills as well as with the emotional trauma he suffered.
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