TLC Case | Issue area: Immigration
Chin was born in Hong Kong and immigrated to the United States when he was a young child with his family. His household was deeply abusive. Shortly after arriving in New York, his mother abandoned him and left him to be raised by his father and grandmother. His grandmother didn’t accept his gender identity and eventually she kicked him out.
For a while he was homeless and living on the streets. While his mother eventually resurfaced, after a visit with her he realized she stole his wallet. His wallet held his green card, Social Security card, and his ID. Chin reported the theft to the police and applied for a replacement green card. However, due to a mix-up by immigration, he was told that because he had naturalized and become a U.S. citizen, he was no longer eligible for a green card. Chin knew that he had never naturalized, but when he tried to correct this, he was told nothing could be done. He tried to get a New York State ID, but the DMV would not give him one without proof of his immigration status. The same thing happened at the Social Security office.
The theft of his wallet left him without any form of identification and unable to find work. Homeless, living on the streets, and trans, Chin was profoundly vulnerable. Over the next fifteen years, he met multiple people who took advantage of him, and who threatened his life and his sister’s if he ever came forward. He was trafficked many times, forced and coerced into illegal activity that led to multiple criminal convictions and incarceration.
Every time he escaped a current trafficker, a new one would show up to take advantage of him. Chin even fled to Georgia and went into hiding. Just when he thought he could let his guard down, his trafficker appeared at his home and he was forced back under his control. Throughout the time he was trafficked, he would regularly try to get new identification card or a new green card, but each time he was denied because of the administrative error listing him as a US citizen.
It took being in jail in Georgia to finally be free of his traffickers. He was released from jail, went to live with a friend and found a local restaurant job where his lack of identification was not a problem. He excelled at the work and after a few years, his boss wanted to promote him to manage a different restaurant. This time, though, identification was a requirement. Desperate and scared that he would lose his job, Chin found a person to make a fake Social Security card that displayed his real Social Security number.
He was soon arrested and after serving his sentence in Georgia, was placed in immigration detention. Because he is a trans man, he was held in solitary confinement, often in his cell for 24 hours a day, for 19 months. His health suffered due to inadequate medical care, including not receiving his blood pressure medicine, being given the wrong treatment for his severe diarrheal illness, and being fed food that made his diabetes worse. At one, point while he was getting a hormone shot, the person giving it to him was so incompetent that the syringe broke while inside his leg. The conditions that Chin faced in immigration detention, along with the experiences of 18 other LGBTQ migrants and people living with HIV, were documented in this complaint to DHS.
After 19 months in solitary, Chin was finally moved to a women’s facility, but he is suffering from extreme anxiety and PTSD. Chin lost his cancellation of removal case and is at risk of being deported as a result of being too terrified of his traffickers to disclose that his convictions were a result of being forced to engage in illegal activity.
Chin’s story is not the exception.
Unfortunately, LGBT people are rarely screened for human trafficking and until an expert asks the right questions, victims suffer in silence and fear. After being identified as a human trafficking victim by an expert, Chin met with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) who confirmed that he was a victim of trafficking and that his convictions are tied to trafficking.
Chin’s attorneys have now asked ICE to reconsider his case. Chin deserves to live and heal with his family. You can take action to help free Chin here.