The Miami Herald reports that the U.S. Federal prosecutors brought charges of forced labor and sex trafficking against a New York man after discovering he was forcing migrants from Guatemala to work on farms and that he sexually assaulted a 16-year-old Guatemalan migrant after abducting her on two separate occasions.
If they refused to work, they would “suffer serious harm”
Agusto Francisco of Dunkirk, NY stands accused of helping migrants cross into the U.S. and then shuttling them to various farms in the Dunkirk area around Lake Erie between September 2018 and September 2020. Once on the farms, he charged them for housing and transportation to work, taking a cut out of their pay to cover their “expenses”. If workers refused to work or pushed back against the fees, they were threatened with violence.
Prosecutors say in the charges that:
“He threatened two individuals with deportation and said he’d hurt their families if they refused to continue working for him or didn’t pay him “money they purportedly owed.”
Migrants working on the farms believed that if they didn’t do the labor and services Francisco was asking of them, they “would suffer serious harm.” The attorney’s office said that a grand jury had indicted Francisco on two counts of forced labor.
Additional charges for abducting and sexually assaulting 16-year-old
Francsico is also accused of raping one of the migrant teens on several occasions and kidnapping her “for the purpose of illegal sexual activity” according to the attorney’s office. Francisco told her if she spoke about the rape, he would hurt her siblings in Guatemala. Francisco kidnapped the teen and kept her inside a trailer for nearly two weeks being rescued by police.
“With an estimated 27.6 million victims worldwide at any given time, human traffickers prey on people of all ages, backgrounds, and nationalities, exploiting them for their own profit,”
In addition to the charges of labor trafficking and forced labor, Francisco will also face one count of kidnapping a minor and one count of transportation of a minor for the purpose of illegal sexual activity. The U.S. Department of State claims that forced labor and sex trafficking are the two “primary forms” of human trafficking in the U.S.
Take a stand against the exploitation of children
Freedom United understands most migrant children do not have a choice when it comes to working. Often, they come into the U.S. unaccompanied and must find ways to pay for necessities, may have debts to repay, and are often sending money to support their families in their home countries since it is harder for adult family members to enter the country.
Right now, when exploitative child labor is on the rise, Freedom United stands beside those who feel it is irresponsible to increase working hours for youth, lower wages, eliminate work permit requirements, and lower the age to work in hazardous industries. We are calling on lawmakers to repeal legislation introduced or enacted, and instead of facilitating the exploitation of children, use their position to prevent it and protect them. Join us and add your voice to the movement to tell states to stop rolling back child labor laws!