Subject: To STOP-TRAFFIC, email:.
Date: Sun Feb 27 2000 - 11:19:33 EST
At 09:45 AM 2/15/00 -0500, you wrote:
>Slave trade still alive in U.S.
>Erin Mccormick and Jim Herron Zamora
>San Francisco Examiner, February 13, 2000
>Exploited women, children trafficed from poorest nations
>Nobee Saeieo thought she was coming from Thailand to the United States as a
>$240-a-month cook, but she got much less than she bargained for. She was
>forced to fix meals, give manicures and serve guests on her knees, 18 hours
>a day, seven days a week.
>Dung, a 13-year-old from Vietnam, was sold to a Silicon Valley executive,
>who planned to bring her here to satisfy his sexual demands, federal
>These are just two of the 150 people who federal prosecutors say have been
>victims of slavery or indentured servitude in the past five years.
>The Bay Area was shocked last month when Berkeley's largest landlord was
>charged with importing teenage girls from India for sex. Lakireddy Bali
>Reddy, free on $10 million bail, has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to
>appear in court again Tuesday.
>Federal immigration officials say trade in slaves and indentured servants
>in the United States is tragically common.
>"It's thriving. It's very well-organized. It's very lucrative," said Mark
>Riordan, head of Northern California investigations for the federal
>Immigration and Naturalization Service. "It's a worldwide problem that
>shows up in every major city (in the United States)."
>"It's difficult for us to prosecute these cases," he said "These are
>situations where the poorest and least sophisticated immigrants are being
>As many as 50,000 women and children are brought to the United States each
>year to be forced into prostitution, bonded sweatshop labor and domestic
>servitude, estimated a State Department official last year, citing a
>federal study that culled information from sources ranging from deportation
>statistics to organized crime trends. Men are also used for forced labor,
>but to a lesser degree, said Theresa Boar, head of the State Department's
>office for international women's issues.
>On Tuesday, a congressional committee will hear testimony on a bill to
>increase punishment for people who smuggle or keep indentured workers in
>the United States.
>"This modern day slave trade is appalling," said Rep. Chris Smith, R-New
>Jersey, a sponsor of the bill. "But even more appalling is the idea that we
>know about it, have the ability to slow and stop it, and we turn our heads."
>Many cases are studies in human cruelty:
>In 1995, 76 Thai immigrants were rescued from a cockroach-infested garment
>factory in El Monte, Los Angeles County, where they were held behind razor
>wire fences and forced to work 16 hours a day.
>In 1997, three men were convicted of charges that they kidnapped a
>22-year-old woman in China, brought her to the United States and forced her
>to work as a prostitute. The men raped her, beat her, burned her with
>cigarettes and tattooed her with a gang symbol before she escaped from them
>in Los Angeles.
>In 1993, 240 starving, sick passengers from China were put ashore by the
>freighter Pai Sheng beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. Authorities believe the
>immigrants were on their way to garment factory and restaurant jobs, where
>they would be forced to work off the $30,000 cost of their trips.
>In 1997, authorities found nearly 100 deaf Mexicans who were being held as
>slaves and forced to sell trinkets on street corners, subways and bus
>terminals in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Charlotte, N.C. Two New
>York ringleaders were sentenced to prison.
>Hae Jung Cho, who heads the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, a
>Los Angeles-based nonprofit, said she believes the vast majority of
>servitude cases in the United States never come to the attention of
>authorities. Many people don't get help because they don't know how to
>communicate with authorities or they fear physical punishment or
>deportation, she said.
>"Of the thousands of cases that might be out there, we only see a few,"
>said Cho, "These people are really afraid. No matter how exploitive their
>situation is, they're still more afraid of the INS."
>The United Nations reports that around the world 4 million people a year
>are traded against their will to work in a form of servitude. The bulk of
>them come from Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America, according
>to federal reports.
>"Trafficking often originates in countries with poverty, few opportunities
>for women, and few laws to prosecute traffickers," said Laura Lederer, a
>Harvard professor, in congressional testimony.
>The countries where the State Department is focusing its efforts to stop
>human trafficking include Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines,
>Ukraine, Russia, the Czech Republic, Albania, Bosnia and Nepal.
>Ann Jordan, who monitors trafficking for the International Human Rights Law
>Group in Washington, said organized crime groups from Eastern Europe and
>Southeast Asia have learned to make big profits with little risk by dealing
>"If you get caught trafficking drugs, you can be executed in some
>countries," she said. "But if you
>take a human being and you threaten them and intimidate them, it's very
>safe. The punishment is minimal. You can make a lot of money."
>Indentured servitude is in part spawned by the high cost of gaining entry
>into the United States, with immigrants from Asia often paying up to
>$50,000 to smugglers.
>Since few workers from developing nations can afford such fees, immigrants
>will often agree to work off their smuggling debts over a period of years.
>"Where does a Chinese farmer get $40,000 to pay off a smuggler?" Riordan
>said. "They may go in and work in a restaurant for 10 years to pay off
>In Michigan, INS investigators found 18 Indian immigrants - all working off
>thousands of dollars in debt - crammed into a three-bedroom apartment
>rented from their boss for $600 a month per person.
>Mike Gennaco, a federal prosecutor who has overseen numerous immigrant
>abuse cases in Southern California, said workers often are not physically
>confined, but held captive by psychological coercion.
>"Threats can be used to essentially create a prison without walls," he said.
>Like many victims of immigrant exploitation, Saeieo, 59, the cook from
>Thailand, was initially eager to come to the United States to work. But
>what she experienced after her employer brought her here in 1991 was
>nothing like the job she was promised.
>A jury found that Saeieo was kept in indentured servitude by her boss,
>Supawan Veerapol, a wealthy Thai woman. Veerapol brought Saeieo to Southern
>California and forced her and other servants to work long hours in her Thai
>restaurant and her posh Woodland Hills home in Los Angeles County,
>At times, Saeieo testified, she was required to serve Veerapol's party
>guests while crawling on her knees - an ancient practice that Thai royalty
>once imposed on servants.
>Saeieo told The Examiner her work days typically began at 7:30 a.m., when
>she fixed breakfast for Veerapol and her teenage son. By 9:30 a.m. she was
>driven to Veerapol's restaurant, where she said she usually cooked, cleaned
>and served until 11 at night. Then, she said, she was taken back to
>Veerapol's house and was expected to do more housework - sometimes until as
>late as 1:30 a.m.
>"I would say, 'I'm tired,' " Saeieo said. "She would just yell at me. She
>yelled all the time."
>Saeieo said she was forced to wash Veerapol's car, clean her pool, cook her
>meals and give her manicures, pedicures and massages.
>She said for a while her "bedroom" was a tiny space on the floor of a
>closet-size utility room where Veerapol kept her washer and dryer. But when
>Veerapol's son was ill, Saeieo said she had to sleep on the floor near the
>bed in case he needed anything.
>Veerapol "treated me very badly," Saeieo said. "She'd tell me, 'If you
>leave I'm going to kill you and kill your family in Thailand.' I was very
>Saeieo said she was not allowed to go anywhere alone and Veerapol would
>often intercept her mail, including letters from her family in Thailand.
>Prosecutors later discovered Veerapol had tallied $85,000 in credit card
>debt using the names of Saeieo and other servants.
>Last year, after two of Veerapol's domestic workers escaped, the employer
>was tried and convicted on charges of indentured servitude, harboring
>illegal immigrants and using her workers' signatures to falsely obtain
>credit. She was sentenced to eight years in federal prison Jan. 10.
>Nonprofit groups say going to the authorities isn't always a good solution.
>Even if their tormentors are prosecuted, the immigrant can be deported,
>said Jenny Stanger of the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking.
>Saeieo was granted a temporary visa to stay here, but she's waiting for
>permission to work. She received no restitution and now lives in a homeless
>The 13-year-old Vietnamese girl, Dung, never made it to the United States.
>But in an arrest warrant, federal prosecutors charge that the Silicon
>Valley executive, Michael Rostoker, negotiated to buy her from her family
>to bring her to the United States for sex.
>Rostoker went to Vietnam to "marry" Dung last April and was trying to
>obtain a forged birth certificate showing she was 18 so he could bring her
>back as his wife, according to the affidavit.
>Federal agents obtained a series of e-mail messages he allegedly exchanged
>with Dung, in which he tells her she must "stay very slim (size 00) and
>pretty" and satisfy his sexual needs.
>In the e-mails, quoted in the arrest warrant, he scolds her for saying that
>she is too young for sex.
>"In Saigon, it is easy to find girls who are 12+ years of age (younger than
>you) who are prostitutes for sex," he says in the e-mail. " . . . so AGE is
>NOT an excuse."
>Rostoker was arrested in September as he prepared to board a plane,
>allegedly on his way to pick up Dung. He is charged with traveling to
>engage in sex with a minor
>and enticing someone under 18 into sexual activity.
>Rostoker, who pleaded not guilty, could not be reached for comment. He is
>free on $2 million bail. His attorneys also declined to be interviewed.
>Kathryn McMann, a professor of women's studies and international studies at
>Cal State Long Beach who has traveled in Asia to research female servitude,
>said families sometimes have little choice but to send their children into
>McMann worked with a human rights group in Cambodia that rescued young
>girls from brothels and returned them to their families. In some cases,
>rescue workers found the girls had been abducted. In others, the parents
>had been misled about where they were sending their girls. But in others,
>families were simply too poor to feed their kids, she said.
>"We had one family say 'We can't take her back. We can't feed her,' " she
>said. "When you're facing poverty, you might say, 'No matter how horrible
>the conditions my daughter is going to face, it can't be worse than not
>Stop-traffic is facilitated, international electronic list
>funded by the Women's Reproductive Health Initiative
>of the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH)
>dealing with human rights abuses associated with trafficking
>in persons, with an emphasis on public health and trafficking
>in persons for forced labor, including forced prostitution,
>sweatshop labor, domestic service and some coercive mail
>order bride arrangements.
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