Friday, August 19, 2005

Report reveals increase in "immigrant slaves" in Colorado

Source: EFE Ingles

By Francisco Miraval.

Denver, Aug 17 (EFE).- Colorado Legal Services is noting a worrisome increase in the number of undocumented immigrants being smuggled into the state to work as what amount to indentured laborers and servants, especially in agriculture and prostitution.

The report from the non-profit organization, which provides legal services to people of limited means, says that while 18,000 complaints on the matter were received in 2003, last year the figure was 20,000.

However, it is believed that the number of cases could be much higher since many of the victims do not know how to file a complaint, whether that's because they don't speak English well enough, don't know where to turn for help or fear retribution by their exploiters and/or deportation by U.S. authorities.

The report was presented Tuesday by CLS attorneys Kimi Jackson and Patricia Medige at a workers' rights forum organized by the Mexican, Peruvian and Guatemalan consulates in Denver to combat what they call "the modern slave trade."

Jackson and Medige said that the most common type of human trafficking is bringing in women to act as prostitutes, but traffickers also force them to provide babysitting or cleaning services in individual homes, or to work in factories or hotels.

For men, the most usual jobs are manual farm labor, cleaning offices or working in restaurants or factories.

The immigrants are not always undocumented or kidnapped. Sometimes they come to the United States legally and on their own, thinking that they have been hired by a firm or a family to do legitimate work.

However, the fact that these immigrants don't know the U.S. culture and don't speak English leaves them vulnerable to exploitation, said the attorneys.

In general, the traffickers threaten to report their victims to the authorities or have them deported, but in other cases outright physical force is used to keep them working in virtual slavery.

Medige said that no official statistics exist on the number of victims of migrant trafficking schemes in Colorado, but she added that the problem is known to be growing.

Mexican consular spokesperson Eva Luz Burgos explained that in 2004, her country's foreign ministry and the U.S. Labor Department signed an accord to work for the well-being of Mexican workers in the United States without regard for their migratory status.

After a year of joint work among the Mexican consulate and several U.S. federal agencies, an increase in the number of cases of migrant exploitation coming to light in Colorado, as well as in Wyoming, has been noted.

For its part, Mexican Consul in Denver Juan Marcos Gutierrez called the situation "intolerable," adding that the best way to fight immigrant exploitation is "to act as a united Latino community."



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