Saturday, August 1, 2015

On sale: slave-raised Louisiana crawfish



From "The New American Slavery," by BuzzFeed reporters Jessica Garrison, Ken Bensinger and Jeremy Singer-Vine:

“We live where we work, and we can’t leave,” said Olivia Guzman Garfias, who has been coming to Louisiana as a guest worker from her small town in Mexico since 1997. “We are tied to the company. Our visas are in the company’s name. If the pay and working conditions aren’t as we wish, who can we complain to? We are like modern-day slaves.”

The phrase "modern-day slave" is not hyperbole. This investigative report documents a terrifying array of abuses to the H-2 visa system, which brings over 100,000 immigrant workers to America every year to perform menial jobs: picking fruit, setting up carnival rides, peeling crawfish in Louisiana.

A BuzzFeed News investigation — based on government databases and investigative files obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, thousands of court documents, as well as more than 80 interviews with workers and employers — shows that the program condemns thousands of employees each year to exploitation and mistreatment, often in plain view of government officials charged with protecting them. All across America, H-2 guest workers complain that they have been cheated out of their wages, threatened with guns, beaten, raped, starved, and imprisoned. Some have even died on the job. Yet employers rarely face any significant consequences.

Here is an example, detailing the arrest of two Mexican women in Louisiana who dared leave the farm where they were being held:

The police brought the women, who were both in their twenties, to the station house. McGee told them they couldn’t leave West’s farm without permission, warning that they could wind up dead. To drive home the point, an officer later testified, McGee stood over Valdez and Gonzalez and pantomimed cutting his throat. He also brandished a Taser at them and said they could be deported if they ever left West’s property without his permission.

A little after 2 in the morning, they released the women to West for the 15-minute drive through the steamy night to his compound — a place where, the women and the Mexican government say, workers were stripped of their passports and assigned to sleep in a filthy, foul-smelling trailer infested with insects and mice. Valdez and Gonzalez also claimed that they and other women were imprisoned, forced to work for little pay, and frequently harassed by West, who demanded to see their breasts and insisted that having sex with him was their only way out of poverty.

It gets much worse. You can read the rest of this harrowing report on BuzzFeed,



No comments:

Post a Comment