Press Release

December 15, 2022
Cardin Introduces Commonsense Proposals to Protect Human Trafficking Victims

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today announced introduction of the Continued Presence Improvement Act (S. 5261) to make common-sense improvements to the Continued Presence Program (CP), a temporary immigration status provided to individuals identified by law enforcement as victims of human trafficking. CP provides victims with a legal means to temporarily live and work in the United States before they can apply for more permanent relief.

“Stability can be hard to find for victims of human trafficking while they are trying to seek justice in a court of law. The Continued Presence Program makes a difference, and we want to make it even more useful and accessible,” said Senator Cardin. “Our aim is to improve program administration and increase the share of eligible individuals that would receive these protections. I look forward to working with my colleagues to make this legislation law.”

”The Continued Presence Improvement Act would substantially strengthen protections and benefits for human trafficking victims,” said Ambassador Susan Esserman, Founder and Director of the University of Maryland SAFE Center for Human Trafficking Survivors and partner at Steptoe and Johnson. “The current limitations on the use of Continued Presence can create severe hardships for trafficking survivors. This bill would address those limitations and provide human trafficking survivors greater access to Continued Presence and thus help them to stabilize and rebuild their lives.”

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Center for Countering Human Trafficking (CCHT) was established in October of 2020 and took responsibility for the administration of the CP program in February of 2021. These proposals arose from a series of listening sessions conducted with federal law enforcement; state, local, tribal and territorial law enforcement; and victim service providers. The Continued Presence Improvement Act:

  1. Strengthens human trafficking investigations by expanding law enforcement officials’ use of continued presence.
  2. Ensures that human trafficking victims with CP maintain continuous protection from removal after an investigation or prosecution is complete and before an immigration benefit is granted.
  3. Expands access to justice by clarifying that bringing a civil action for human trafficking is an independent basis for CP, regardless of the status of criminal investigation or prosecution.
  4. Authorizes USCIS to issue work permits incidents to Continued Presence to eliminate additional paperwork and burden on law enforcement officials.
  5. Removes procedural roadblocks to improve the efficiency of the program.

A one-page summary of the bill can be downloaded here. The full text of the bill can be downloaded here.