Campaign Summary: Thousands of temporary workers are being trafficked into forced labor in California under threat of violence, deportation, and harm to their families. The vast majority of temporary workers are recruited via third-party foreign labor contractors, some of whom act neither lawfully nor ethically. That is why we are working with the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking and calling on the California State Legislature to support legislation that would help protect temporary workers from modern slavery.
I came to the United States with the promise of a good job. In the Philippines, going to the United States is like winning the lottery. When I got my visa, I was so excited that I did not ask many questions.”
The person who got me the job in the Philippines told me the only way to get a visa to the US was to come on a P-1 visa for the purpose of performing at a specific athletic competition. I came to California with a recruiter who brought more than 10 other people. Some had come to compete in a taekwondo tournament in Las Vegas, while others, like me, had come based on a false promise from a labor recruiter that I would be able to get a legal work visa once in the United States. I was not given a contract or the terms of my employment before I left my home country.
When I got to the US things were very different from what I thought. I was told I owed $12,000 for my transportation to the United States and the visa. My trafficker told me my salary will be $600 a month with a $300 deduction for the money I owed her. I would have to work for her for 10 years to pay off my debt.
I worked at a retirement home for the elderly located in a suburb of Los Angeles, 18 hours a day, seven days a week with no day off. I had to sleep on the floor in the hallway and eat table scraps. My passport was taken away from me and I was told it would be held for me for safekeeping. There was a shopping center six blocks away from us and sometimes co-worker Jayson and I took turns to get some Chinese food or McDonald’s. When my trafficker found out, she told us to be very careful walking in the street especially at night. She said that if the police see us, they might ask us for our ID and since we didn’t have one to show the police, they could take us away and put us in jail.
She told us that there are a lot of requirements to get an ID and we don’t need it since we are working for her. My co-worker and I were also threatened that if we tried to escape, we would be deported –she said she would call the police and tell them that we stole something.
This went on for two years. Finally, I was helped by the FBI after a neighbor noticed that I never had a day off. I spoke out about what happened to me to the FBI and eventually testified against my trafficker in criminal court. She got a five-year prison sentence.
I am now working full-time as a Medical Biller and Coder and a member of the Resilient Voices-CAST LA Survivor Network. I know the type of abuse that happened to me and my co-workers happen to other people as well.
Working caring for the elderly was a hard job, but they were like family to me—I worried about them and my own safety all the time when I was working for my trafficker. Today with so many older people vulnerable to COVID-19 and the need for home health care workers like myself even more in demand I worry that the trafficking of workers like me could increase—especially since people are even more desperate for work.
That is why I am speaking out today about my abuse.
Based on my own experience and the experience of other survivors’ stories I have learned about in my network; SB 477 should cover more temporary visa categories than H-2B. No temporary visa categories should be excluded as its provision have to protect workers in all visa categories so workers like me can tell the difference when a false promise of employment is made by a recruiter for a job in California.
I believe many people, not only from the Philippines, will take any chance, that they believe presents a good opportunity for them and their family, to come and work here in the United States.
No one should believe they have to work for an employer night and day, and be threatened with when they believed they were coming to work with a legal visa. All temporary migrant workers should be better protected, so they’re prevented from being trafficked and coerced into forced labor like I was.”