trafficking case/US govt action

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Ann Jordan (ANNJORDAN@compuserve.com)
Fri, 24 Apr 1998 10:37:52 -0400


the following excerpts are from a washington post article dated 4/24/98 p. A21
[bracketed language is my own]:

"Sixteen members of a Mexican family operation headquartered in Veracruz were
accused [in a 52-count indictment in Fort Pierce, Florida] of luring young
women to the United States with the promise of a better life and then forcing
them into prostitution to pay off their smuggling fees.

[the story continues with Janet Reno announcing a "new interagency task force
to crack down on worker exploitation and modern-day slavery."

"Reno said the task force would be headed by Bill Lann Lee, acting assistant
attorney general for civil rights, and Marvin Krislov, acting solicitor at the
Labor Department. She said the group would seek to improve interagency
corrdination in worker exploitation cases, set up a central information bank
where investigators can compare leads and exchange tips and 'establish a
blueprint' for addressing victims' needs.

***
"Asked if plans to encourage victims to speak up would include guarantees
against deportation, Lee said that would be considered 'on a case-by-case
basis.' Reno Added: 'We don't want to create a blanket opportunity. We need
to maintain appropriate enforcement of the immigration laws.'"

[the Florida victims are materials witness and so have temporary legal status
for a year. the defendants have been charged with "involuntary servitude,
civil rights conspiracy, extortion and transportation of women across states
lines for immoral purposes (Mann Act)].]
From jkanics@igc.apc.org Mon Apr 27 09:10:59 1998
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Date: Mon, 27 Apr 1998 06:14:53 -0700 (PDT)
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From: Jyothi Kanics <jkanics@igc.apc.org>
Subject: news: Reno Seeks To Root Out Slavery

*Please note comments to this news story at the end of the message*

Reno Seeks To Root Out Slavery

By MICHAEL J. SNIFFEN
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Attorney General Janet Reno set up a task force Thursday
to attack growing instances of modern-day slavery in the United States.

"Slavery is one of history's worst moments, but it isn't just history when
you look at some of these cases," Reno told her weekly news conference. "We
are not interested in containing modern-day slavery; we want to eradicate
it in America."

Just last year, 60 deaf Mexicans were forced to peddle key chains on the
streets of New York City, Reno noted. In Georgia, South Carolina, and
Florida, migrant farm workers were forced to work for little pay in
cramped, unsanitary living conditions, and threatened with physical harm if
they tried to escape. In California, Thai garment workers were forced by
armed guards to work 20-hour shifts in sweatshop conditions.

In the last three years, the Justice Department has brought 10 cases
involving more than 150 victims.

"Most of the cases seem to involve undocumented workers from Mexico and
other countries. But there are also cases involving migrant workers, which
do involve United States citizens," said Acting Assistant Attorney General
Bill Lann Lee, chief of Justice's civil rights division and co-chair of the
task force. "No matter what your legal status, it's emerging as a
significant law enforcement problem."

The task force will be drawn from Justice and Labor Department
investigators who already work on such cases. Under the Fair Labor
Standards Act, the solicitor of labor brings civil cases to recover wages
for underpaid workers and refers some cases to Justice for criminal
prosecution. The solicitor will be the other task force co-chair.

"It certainly is our impression that the problem is getting worse," said
Associate Solicitor Steve Mandel. "We certainly see a higher degree of
abusive practices in the garment industry."

"We would like to see ... some of those cases develop into criminal cases
... to deter employers from engaging in these abusive practices."

The task force will set up regular meetings where Labor investigators, FBI
agents and immigration officers can exchange leads and compare techniques,
Reno said. It also will establish a central database and draft "a blueprint
for addressing the unique needs of victims of worker exploitation" so they
"will be more willing to come forward and report these terrible crimes."

That would include medical care and protection for abused workers, Reno
said.

Mandel said the garment industry in particular is very difficult to monitor
in part because the exploited workers "tend to be undocumented, and they
are often unwilling to come to us with complaints."

Lee said the task force would look into whether legislation is needed to
allow victims who are illegal aliens to avoid deportation if they come
forward to report abuses. But for now, decisions on whether to deport
illegal aliens discovered in slavery will continue to be made on a
case-by-case basis, Reno and Lee said.

Report ends-----

Our Comment:

We would suggest that if the victims of slavery could be afforded refugee
status, then there would be greater opportunity to have such people seek
out assistance from the authorities. While the victims of slavery are
criminalised and subject to deportation they can easily be coerced by their
controllers with such threats of deportation. Without the threat of
deportation many incidents of coercion would be very difficult to sustain.

Salamon Alapitvany.
Tanya@compuserve.com


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