News/US: Two claiming slave labor sent back to Mexico

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Subject: News/US: Two claiming slave labor sent back to Mexico
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Fri Aug 20 1999 - 09:37:43 EDT


Two claiming slave labor sent back to Mexico
by Kim Bates, Blade Staff Writer
The Blade (Toledo, Ohio), August 18, 1999

GENOA - Two brothers who claimed last week that they were held as slaves at
a farm near here have been voluntarily deported to their homes in Mexico.

Leonel and Jose Hernandez were escorted on Friday to a commercial flight in
Detroit, which flew nonstop to Mexico City, said Mark Hansen, the acting
district director of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in
Cleveland.

He said the brothers were found to be deportable following a lengthy
interview last week with two INS agents. An administrative proceeding
wasn't necessary because the brothers voluntarily desired to fly home.

"It was what they wanted," Mr. Hansen said yesterday.

Leonel, 21, and Jose, 20, asked to return to southern Mexico after they
escaped Aug. 1 from a nearby farm, where they had been picking cucumbers
for most of July.

The brothers said they were smuggled into the country by crew leaders, who
later refused to pay them for their work at the farm. They said they were
held against their will and lived in deplorable conditions.

Rosemarie Dickinson, owner of the farm, has denied the allegations and has
said that all of her migrant workers were paid directly.

Mr. Hansen said the INS is investigating the brothers' claims of alien
smuggling. He said the probe could be lengthy, especially since the agency
wants to locate the crew leaders in question.

The Farm Labor Organizing Committee, a Toledo-based union that represents
more than 6,000 migrant workers, continues to investigate the matter as well.

FLOC last week filed a grievance against Mrs. Dickinson's 1,200-acre farm,
asking for its payroll records. The grievance claimed that about 100
workers picked cucumbers at the farm this summer, but were never paid.

It contended the workers were housed in "grossly, overcrowded conditions,"
slept on the floor without beds, and were transported from the camps to the
fields in overcrowded vehicles.

Since that grievance was filed, FLOC President Baldemar Velasquez said the
union has received the farm's payroll records. He said officials are still
reviewing those documents to determine whether one person had been
receiving the payment of several workers.

"There's willingness on behalf of the farm to work this out," Mr. Velasquez
said.

He said union leaders want to speak with the one crew leader who's employed
through the growing season at Mrs. Dickinson's farm. The grievance process
could take up to 10 days to resolve.


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