Victim or collaborator?

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Khan takes a late-night call.

by Buffy Lincoln with Rohida Khan –

The phone rang at 10 p.m. The voice on the other end belonged to officer from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE had just completed a raid on two massage parlors, apprehending four potential trafficking victims. Rohida Khan—anti-trafficking coordinator for The Salvation Army Western Territory—catapulted into action. She grabbed her purse, keys and briefcase and headed out the door with her husband in tow.

“Ms. T,” one of the four victims, was 27 years old but looked younger. It was difficult to discern if she was a victim or a collaborator with the traffickers. The other three girls asserted that Ms. T was a middle manager for the traffickers and refused to be placed in a shelter with her.

Would ICE would charge her or give her victim status? She refused to hand over her cell phone at the facility, causing concern that she might be contacting the traffickers—one she identified as her boyfriend. She claimed to have a cousin in Orange County and wanted to be released; however, because of her security risk status and until her cousin’s legitimacy could be verified, she was re-incarcerated. Eventually, her cousin was confirmed and she received material witness status.

Khan—not satisfied with the state of limbo in which Ms. T remained—pushed for further investigation. Finally, ICE agreed to re-interview her, when she was, in fact, determined to be a victim.

Khan stayed in constant touch with her and visited her at her house, partnering with her family to encourage and motivate her until her paperwork came through. She eventually received work authorization documents, identification, and all benefits available to legal refugees. An attorney helped Ms. T file for a T-visa, allowing her to legally stay in the U.S. for up to four years and to apply for a green card.

The other three victims were immediately declared victims; their processing was accomplished with less effort.

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