Oregon State Bar Bulletin — DECEMBER 2009

Human Tender
You May Encounter Trafficking in Your Practice
By Melody Finnemore

You May Encounter Trafficking in Your Practice

Oregon lawyers should prepare themselves for the possibility that they may encounter trafficking in their legal practice. Firms may consider devoting pro bono hours to assisting a victim in a civil lawsuit.

Defense attorneys, not always in the position of adopting a “victim’s rights” perspective, should become familiar with such protections in order to free victims of trafficking from jail and immigration detention. Even those attorneys who do not represent victims of trafficking have a part to play by advising clients on human trafficking laws in order to avoid exploitation of their workers.

Consider the following tips for cases of suspected human trafficking:

Look beneath the surface. Be aware of who your neighbors are. Ask questions if there is a child who does not attend school. Talk to the person who cleans your hotel room, mows your grass or replaces the roof on your house. Helpful information is available from the federal government’s Campaign to Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking website at www.hhs.gov/trafficking.

Screen all clients for potential trafficking. Include a simple question like “Are you free to leave your work?” as part of your intake process, and have a more detailed questionnaire ready in the case of a response that indicates possible trafficking. Ask the questions several times, since the client may not feel safe to disclose initially.

Use a competent interpreter and make sure that others do so as well.Make sure that you are able to communicate effectively with your client.

Find support; no one can handle a trafficking case independently.

Some available options:

n Partner with the Oregon Human Trafficking Task Force, www.oregonoath.org. Task forces usually have strong contacts with federal law enforcement, local law enforcement, immigration attorneys and non-governmental agencies that serve victims of trafficking.

n Call Multnomah County Sheriff Deputy Sgt. Keith Bickford at (503) 251-2479.

n The Portland-based National Crime Victim Law Institute, (503) 768-6819, works on human trafficking cases across the country, helping victims to secure independent counsel and assert their rights. Visit www.ocvli.org.

n The Oregon Crime Victims Law Center, (503) 208-8160, provides victims of criminal cases currently pending in state, federal or tribal courts in Oregon with no-cost legal representation.

n Human trafficking tips also can be reported to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at (888) 373-7888, or go online to NHTRC@PolarisProject.org.

Ensure that your client’s needs are met. Lawyers are not always in the business of finding clients housing, counseling, job training, English as a second language classes and other life skills. Connect with Catholic Charities of Oregon, www.CatholicCharitiesOregon.org, or the Oregon Crime Victims Law Center, (503) 208-8160, both of which can help lead trafficking victims to the resources and services they need.

Do no harm to your client’s immigration case. Immigration law is complex and ever-changing. Consult with an experienced immigration practitioner if you are advocating on behalf of your client with Immigration and Customs Enforcement or considering filing a U or T visa application.

Consider further training. Catholic Charities and the National Crime Victim Law Institute – whose director serves on a national advisory group on trafficking for the U.S. Department of Justice – are planning a 6.5-hour CLE on practical skills for helping victims of trafficking with immigration and victims’ rights issues, to be held before spring of 2010. Additional information is available from the institute at
(503) 768-6819.

Download free helpful practice manuals on handling human trafficking and child trafficking cases and on when to use expert witnesses in such cases here: www.abanet.org/domviol/tip/. Hard copies can be ordered from www.abanet.org/domviol. (The guides were developed by the following ABA entities: Commission on Domestic Violence, Commission on Immigration, Rule of Law Initiative, Center for Pro Bono, Commission on Youth at Risk, Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities and the Center for Human Rights.)

Take care of yourself. The trauma suffered by trafficking victims is severe, and secondary trauma, such as headaches, anxiety and nightmares, among those who assist is real. Lawyers are healers and deserve support from the stress of such cases.

Trafficking is a devastating violation of human rights and an exploitation of the very dream that our country represents. Being a part of helping to heal a victim or hold a trafficker accountable may be extremely challenging, but may well be one of the most rewarding experiences of your legal career.

– Melody Finnemore

Much of this information is based on an article written by Gretchen M. Hunt for the July 2009 issue of the Kentucky Bar Association’s Bench & Bar journal and is used here with permission. 

© 2009Melody Finnemore

return to top
return to Table of Contents