Monday, December 22, 2003

Are Mexican Migrant Workers Being Treated Like Slaves?

Often undocumented, but necessary to the farming economy--they are prone to being mistreated in ways that rival the worst tales of totalitarian governments from afar--but these cases are taking place in your backyard.

From Justice probing claim of being chained in:

"In that article, a 28-year-old Mexican man said that on more than one occasion in late 2002, he and other migrant tomato pickers were locked inside a trailer in the town of Wimauma, in Hillsborough County, by a family of farm labor contractors who claimed the workers owed them money. Those alleged debts were smuggling fees the workers incurred while being transported clandestinely into the U.S. from Mexico.

The man, who used the alias Jose Moreno, claimed he and the other laborers had to work off those debts before they could change jobs, were chained in the trailer at times and threatened with violence if they tried to leave. Such actions violate anti-slavery laws.

According to sources close to the case, two Justice Department attorneys flew from Washington to Tampa Monday. They, plus two FBI agents, met with Moreno that day at the Beth-El Mission, a religious facility in Wimauma."