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The Slavery of Immigrants in Florida


I just finished watching a CNN video (April 28, 2008) http://cosmos.bcst.yahoo.com/up/player/popup/?rn=3906861&cl=7588642&ch=4226713&src=news on the slave labor conditions of immigrants working in Florida. Investigators say migrant workers enslaved in Florida have every movement controlled, and that they are not allowed to leave the space provided by the employer when they are done working. In other words, they are essentially prisoners of their employers. From the CNN video, it appears the immigrants are often beaten and maltreated as well.

What year is it anyway?? Can it really be 2008 in America? Or are we going backward so fast that we are too dizzy to recognize what is going on?

Section 1 of the 13th Amendment ratified by the 38th Congress on Dec. 6, 1865 states: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

It appears that the draconian and repressive climate surrounding the issue of immigration in the US has contributed to this intolerable situation. Since the immigrants are illegal, and since we have not humanely fixed the immigration laws in this country, involuntary servitude programs flourish and the new forms of slavery remain hidden from the public eye.

Studies show that forced labor thrives in agricultural and domestic work, as well as in sweatshops or unregulated industries. Laurel Fletcher, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley International Human Rights Law Clinic was one of several authors of a 2004 report believed to be the first comprehensive study of forced labor in the modern United States. That study, by Free The Slaves and the Human Rights Center of the University of California at Berkeley, concluded that at least 10,000 people are forced laborers at any time across the United States.

The study concluded that forced labor victims came from more than 35 countries, with the most from China, followed by Mexico and Vietnam. It reported forced labor in at least 90 U.S. cities, most often in areas with large immigrant populations. The study concluded that prostitution and sex services accounted for 46 percent of the documented forced labor. Domestic service made up 27 percent, agriculture 10 percent, sweatshop factory work 5 percent and restaurant and hotel work 4 percent.

Just recently I saw another program on the booming and profitable sex slave business in the US where upon arrival the women are sold to pimps, drugged, terrorized, caged in brothels and raped repeatedly. Like immigrant workers, many of these women and young girls were looking for a better life, a chance to earn a living and support a family.

The Florida case reported above should create a call for reform. The Constitution should be enforced, and those caught employing immigrant or other workers under conditions that fit the description of slavery ought to be arrested and tried, and the workers themselves released and compensated.

Furthermore, we need an approach to immigrants that is genuinely compassionate and treats these people as workers trying to feed their hungry families rather than as criminals. We need a new approach that reverses the repressive police state trend of criminalization which provides the perfect shadowy climate for illegal slavery.

Our own CIA estimates 14,500 to 17,500 victims of slavery are trafficked into the United States every year. Slavery is profitable, and experts estimate trafficking in the US yields $9 billion dollars in profit every year.

Didn’t we fight a Civil War to end all slavery? Looks like the abolitionists lost. Nat Turner and William Lloyd Garrison must be turning in their graves.

 

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