Ruka* was in the United States on a tourist visa visiting from her home country in Asia, when she first met Donna*. A restaurant owner, Donna promised Ruka that she could be included in a visa application that would grant her permanent residency in the U.S.  

As a condition for submitting the application, Donna required Ruka to work at the restaurant. She also made her pay thousands of dollars in legal fees. Ruka had no way of knowing that, in fact, federal immigration laws obligate the employer to pay these fees. With no other option, she agreed to pay.  

But after Ruka had come up with the exorbitant fees, Donna changed her duties in the restaurant and eventually ceased paying her, requiring her to work only for tips as a server. A short time later, Ruka’s dilemma became unbearable when Donna demanded another $10,000 for the visa application. She even threatened to remove Ruka from the application if she did not pay or continue to work.  

Ruka stood her ground, refusing to give in to Donna’s demands. The restaurateur’s retaliation was brutal. Well aware that Ruka was now only paid in tips, Donna placed her to work in the kitchen, where she’d be unable receive gratuity from customers.  

Fortunately, Ruka was soon able to flee the trafficking situation and reported Donna’s crimes to the authorities. She connected with Ayuda’s pro bono program and worked with volunteer attorneys from Jenner & Block to apply for both a T Visa and a U Visa. (What’s a T Visa?

During every step of the process, Ruka’s pro bono attorneys were guided by Ayuda staff attorneys to assist with the uniquities of immigration law. In December 2022, Ruka received the good news: her T Visa had been approved, allowing her to safely remain in the U.S. for the time being. She will be eligible to apply for lawful permanent residency in the future based on her T visa approval.  

Furthermore, since Ruka’s initial report, Donna has pled guilty to human trafficking – ensuring that no one else will endure what Ruka went through at her hands. Ruka is happy to have won her case and hopes that sharing her story will help someone else in her situation.  

Click here to learn more about Pro Bono Partnerships through Ayuda.

*Names and picture have been changed, and some details omitted, to protect the client’s privacy and safety.