The Under-subscription of T-1 Visas: A Study on America’s Conceptualization of Human Trafficking Victims

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This thesis examines the framing of the Victims in Trafficking in Persons nonimmigrant Visa (T Visa), established in 2000 within the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA)—part of the domestic effort within the United States to combat trafficking following the Palermo Protocol. Since its inception, the T Visa has been severely undersubscribed, in both the number of applicants and those who are ultimately approved for the T Visa. Each year Congress is authorized to approve up to 5,000 T Visas, yet between 2002-2010 Congress approved less than 4,000 of 6,000 total applications for the T Visa. This study explores why the T Visa is undersubscribed by examining the frames and branding of the T Visa both in terms of the State Department’s presentation to non governmental organizations (NGOs) and NGO’s presentation to victims of trafficking. Based off an analysis of three organizations (the State Department, the Coalition for the Abolition of Slavery and Trafficking, and the Polaris Project), this study finds the presence of a prosecutorial framework, an anti-slavery framing that goes against certain feminist presentations of trafficking, and a palpable tension between immigration and humanitarian law are all possible contributing factors to the T Visa’s under-subscription. In the conclusion, recommendations are made in order to curb this under-subscription and make the T Visa a more effective tool. Specifically, the author recommends all three organizations, as well as policymakers in the United States at large, rethink their framing of trafficking and consider revamping or changing their focus on antislavery framing.





Horstmann, Bethany (2012). The Under-subscription of T-1 Visas: A Study on America’s Conceptualization of Human Trafficking Victims. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from

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