“I will never ever forget AI Justice, who has done everything to help me for over five years. They gave me hope. They gave me my life back.”
Name Withheld, Survivor of Trafficking
AI Justice’s LUCHA or “The Struggle”: A Women’s Legal Program began in 1997 as the first program of its kind in South Florida—dedicated to representing immigrant survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, violent crime or human trafficking. NOU KAB, or “We Can,” was founded in 2003 as the program’s Creole-language initiative addressing Haitian survivors’ needs and engaging in Haitian community efforts to end violence against women. AI Justice are committed to addressing immigrant survivors’ needs in a holistic manner, recognizing that assistance must be comprehensive to have long-term impact.
Staff maintain close, ongoing relationships with law enforcement to ensure abusers are jailed. LUCHA/NOU KAB has helped thousands of deserving immigrants obtain legal immigration status and continues to work with advocates locally and nationally to improve survivors’ access to services.
Staff is recognized nationally and internationally as experts in trafficking and domestic violence. LUCHA Director Michelle Ortiz testified on human trafficking before the American Bar Association Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights & Responsibilities in May 2011. Staff have presented at numerous at international conferences, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation of Europe (OSCE) in Vienna, the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW) Conference in Bangkok and the 15th World Congress of Criminology held in Barcelona. Additionally, they have provided training on human trafficking issues to thousands of law enforcement officials, judges, legal and social service providers and government officials in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Nepal, Peru, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Panama.
Maria (pseudonym), Mexico
“I was among the group of women from Mexico who were promised legal jobs in the United States, but we were forced into slavery and to prostitute ourselves. My life was threatened if I resisted. We were kept in a place far worse than prison. Once the police found us, we spent five months in detention. Our high hopes for America turned into our worst nightmare. AI Justice got me released from Immigration jail and got me a work permit. Thanks to AI Justice, now I have a better life. I don’t have to be afraid. I started working in a restaurant, cooking and cleaning. And then I was the cashier and now I am a store manager. I have gone to the Capitol of the United States four times to testify to the Senators.”
In April 1999, the ring-leader and six associates pleaded guilty and were sentenced from 30 months to 15 years and ordered to pay $1 million to the survivors. AI Justice represented all seventeen survivors in this case. Maria was among those granted legal status through trafficking-survivor visas.
Momoko Sudo, Japan
“In 1992, I came legally to the United States and later married a US citizen who abused me. I ended up in a homeless shelter to escape. At FIAC, they were very understanding about domestic-violence cases and didn’t treat me like a client. They treated me like a special person. I wish I had a picture of when my life was the worst because you can see how much change FIAC has given me. I am completely different person. Without FIAC, I think I’d be dead. My dream really came true with FIAC.”
Momoko is now a U.S. lawful permanent resident. She has become a successful artist and was an AI Justice Board Member before moving to California.