Chicago Human Trafficking Lawyers

Human trafficking is a serious crime that affects millions of people worldwide, including in major cities like Chicago. Victims of human trafficking often feel trapped and helpless, unsure of where to turn for help. That’s where human trafficking lawyers come in. If you or someone you know has been a victim of human trafficking in the Chicago area, it’s important to understand your legal rights and options. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about finding and working…

Human trafficking is a serious crime that affects millions of people worldwide, including in major cities like Chicago. Victims of human trafficking often feel trapped and helpless, unsure of where to turn for help. That’s where human trafficking lawyers come in. If you or someone you know has been a victim of human trafficking in the Chicago area, it’s important to understand your legal rights and options. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about finding and working with a Chicago human trafficking lawyer.

What is Human Trafficking?

First, let‘s define what human trafficking is. Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. This can include forced labor, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, and other forms of modern-day slavery.Under federal law, human trafficking is defined as:
a) Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or
b) The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. (22 U.S.C. § 7102(9))1In Illinois, human trafficking is covered under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). This law makes it a crime to knowingly subject or attempt to subject another person to labor or services obtained or maintained through force, fraud, or coercion. It’s also illegal to knowingly recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide, or obtain by any means another person, intending or knowing that the person will be subjected to involuntary servitude or forced labor or services.2

Signs of Human Trafficking

Victims of human trafficking often feel isolated and may be reluctant to seek help. However, there are some common signs that someone may be a victim of trafficking:

  • Living with an employer
  • Poor living conditions
  • Multiple people in a cramped space
  • Inability to speak to individuals alone
  • Answers appear to be scripted and rehearsed
  • Employer is holding identity documents
  • Signs of physical abuse
  • Submissive or fearful
  • Unpaid or paid very little
  • Under 18 and in prostitution3

If you notice these red flags, the person may be a victim of human trafficking. It‘s important to report any suspected trafficking to the proper authorities.

How a Human Trafficking Lawyer Can Help

Human trafficking lawyers specialize in helping victims of these horrific crimes. They understand the complex legal issues involved and can guide you through the process of getting the justice and support you deserve. Some of the ways a human trafficking lawyer can assist include:

1. Ensuring Your Safety

The first priority is making sure you are safe and protected from your trafficker(s). A lawyer can help you secure emergency housing, restraining orders, and other protections to keep you out of harm’s way. They will work with law enforcement and social services to develop a safety plan tailored to your unique situation.

2. Advocating for Your Rights

Human trafficking victims have legal rights, even if they are undocumented immigrants. A skilled attorney will zealously advocate for your rights and ensure you are treated with dignity and respect. This includes protecting your privacy, shielding you from unfair prosecution, and holding traffickers accountable.

3. Pursuing Civil Damages

In addition to criminal charges, victims of human trafficking may be entitled to civil damages from their traffickers. This can include compensation for unpaid wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and more. A human trafficking lawyer can file a civil lawsuit on your behalf to pursue the monetary damages you deserve.1For example, in 2018, 11 workers who were trafficked from Mexico and Central America to work in the United States were awarded $14 million in damages in a civil labor trafficking suit. The workers had been forced to work over 80 hours per week in restaurants, cleaning services, and construction sites for little to no pay.4

4. Assisting with Immigration Issues

Many human trafficking victims are immigrants who may be in the country illegally. They may fear deportation if they come forward. However, there are special visas available to protect victims of trafficking and other crimes. These include:

  • T Visas – Available to victims of human trafficking who have complied with reasonable requests from law enforcement and would suffer extreme hardship if deported.1
  • U Visas – Available to victims of certain crimes (including trafficking) who have suffered substantial abuse and are willing to assist law enforcement.1

A human trafficking lawyer can help you navigate the complex immigration system and apply for the appropriate visa.

5. Connecting You with Support Services

The road to recovery for human trafficking survivors can be long and difficult. In addition to legal assistance, victims often need access to medical care, mental health counseling, job training, and other support services. Human trafficking lawyers work closely with social service agencies and non-profit organizations to connect clients with the resources they need to rebuild their lives.2Some organizations that provide services to trafficking survivors in the Chicago area include:

  • The Salvation Army STOP-IT Program
  • Heartland Alliance
  • National Immigrant Justice Center
  • Traffick Free
  • Dream Catcher Foundation

Your lawyer can refer you to these and other programs for additional support.

How to Find a Human Trafficking Lawyer in Chicago

If you are ready to find a human trafficking lawyer to take on your case, there are a few ways to go about it:

1. Referrals

One of the best ways to find a good lawyer is through a referral from someone you trust. This could be a friend, family member, social worker, or another professional who has experience with human trafficking cases. If you are working with a victim services organization, they likely have relationships with experienced trafficking attorneys who they can connect you with.

2. CAST Network

The Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST) maintains a national network of human trafficking lawyers and service providers. Visit their website at and click on “Get Help” to find an attorney in the Chicago area who is equipped to handle your case. CAST also offers training to lawyers looking to get involved in anti-trafficking work.2

3. National Human Trafficking Hotline

You can contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline for referrals to human trafficking lawyers and other resources in your area. Call 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733 to speak with a trained specialist. The hotline is confidential and available 24/7.3

4. Local Bar Associations

Most counties and cities have a local bar association with a lawyer referral service. Contact the Chicago Bar Association or the Illinois State Bar Association and let them know you are looking for an attorney who specializes in human trafficking cases. They can provide you with a list of qualified lawyers in your area.

5. Online Directories

There are also online directories that can help you find human trafficking lawyers, such as:


Search for “human trafficking lawyer” or “trafficking victim attorney” along with “Chicago” or “Illinois” to get a list of local attorneys with experience in this area of law. Be sure to read reviews and check their qualifications before reaching out.

What to Look for in a Human Trafficking Lawyer

Not all lawyers are equipped to handle the unique challenges of human trafficking cases. When searching for an attorney, look for someone who:

  • Has experience specifically with human trafficking cases, not just general criminal defense or immigration law. Ask how many trafficking cases they have handled and what the outcomes were.
  • Is trauma-informed and victim-centered in their approach. Human trafficking cases require a high degree of sensitivity and understanding of the complex trauma victims have endured. Your lawyer should make you feel supported and empowered throughout the process.
  • Is well-connected with other professionals and organizations that serve trafficking survivors. As mentioned, recovering from trafficking requires a multi-disciplinary approach. Your lawyer should be able to connect you with social workers, counselors, and other professionals for comprehensive support.
  • Offers services in your native language. If you are more comfortable communicating in a language other than English, look for a lawyer who is bilingual or has access to interpreters.
  • Makes you feel comfortable and understood. You will be working closely with your lawyer and sharing deeply personal information. It’s important that you feel you can trust them and that they are truly on your side.

What to Expect When Working with a Human Trafficking Lawyer

Every human trafficking case is unique, but in general, here is what you can expect when working with a trafficking lawyer:

1. Initial Consultation

Most lawyers offer a free initial consultation to discuss your case and determine if they are a good fit. During this meeting, the lawyer will ask you questions about your situation and explain your legal options. This is also an opportunity for you to ask them questions and get a sense of their experience and approach.Some questions you may want to ask include:

  • How many human trafficking cases have you handled?
  • What is your success rate in these types of cases?
  • How do you support clients beyond just legal representation?
  • Who else will be working on my case?
  • How will you keep me updated on the status of my case?
  • What are your fees and payment options?

Take your time and consult with a few different lawyers before deciding who to hire. Go with someone who makes you feel heard, respected, and confident in their abilities.

2. Investigation and Evidence Gathering

Once you decide to move forward, your lawyer will begin a thorough investigation of your case. This may involve:

  • Interviewing you in depth about your experience
  • Gathering evidence such as documents, photos, or medical records that corroborate your story
  • Interviewing witnesses
  • Reviewing police reports and other official records
  • Working with experts to build your case

Your lawyer may also have an investigator on their team who can assist with tracking down evidence and witnesses. It’s important to be as forthcoming as possible during this process, even if it is painful to recount your experience. Your lawyer is there to support you.

3. Filing a Claim

Depending on the specifics of your case, your lawyer may file a criminal complaint, a civil lawsuit, or both. In a criminal case, your lawyer will work with prosecutors to bring charges against your trafficker and advocate for your rights as a victim. You may be asked to testify in court.In a civil case, your lawyer will file a lawsuit against your trafficker seeking monetary damages on your behalf. This may involve mediation, settlement negotiations, or going to trial.Your lawyer will keep you informed at every stage and make sure you understand what is happening. They will also work to protect your privacy and minimize any additional trauma from participating in the legal process.

4. Pursuing Remedies

In addition to criminal charges and civil damages, your lawyer will work to pursue other remedies on your behalf. This may include:

  • Assisting with applications for T visas, U visas, or other immigration relief
  • Advocating for vacatur (expungement) of any criminal convictions related to your trafficking situation
  • Helping you access victim compensation funds
  • Negotiating with creditors or landlords if you have debt or housing issues related to your trafficking experience
  • Assisting with name changes or other steps to help you move forward with your life

Your lawyer’s goal is to help you achieve safety, stability, and self-sufficiency so you can put your trafficking experience behind you. They will work tirelessly to pursue every available remedy.

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