Like cattle, dozens, perhaps hundreds, of undocumented migrants are “bought” by ranchers from the United States on a daily basis, in a modern slavery scheme.
An investigation carried out by the newspaper Milenio, based on the consultation of judicial documents housed in the American courts, reveals that a criminal organization that is dedicated to the sale of these “modern slaves” obtained profits of 200 million dollars. in just four years.
In reviewing the files, journalist Laura Sánchez Ley found the modus operandi of the mafias that trade with migrants: after they cross the border, they tend to steal identification, personal papers, and collect information about their families in Mexico or other countries. They use this information to intimidate them so that they do not escape.
These subjects keep the migrants in fields with electrified fences where they are mistreated in multiple ways, they are not paid for the work they do and they are given little water; which constitutes labor exploitation and human trafficking. This situation is repeated in the fields of Georgia, Wisconsin, Florida, and Texas, entities where 34 leaders of criminal groups that trade with migrants have been prosecuted.
The End Slavery Now project, which seeks to make the situation in the United States visible, ensures that this type of forced labor is a form of slavery used throughout the world to produce various products in global supply chains.
The migrants who have survived these slave camps have told true stories of terror.
“Some of them were exploited to cut dozens of onions day and night with their bare hands, without pay, without water. In fact, one of them died of dehydration from cutting onions under the sun. At that time, another of the migrants was forced to sleep in a small room with a measles patient as punishment. Others were sent to an onion field with an electric fence, to prevent them from escaping. Women are raped by their bosses,” said the journalist.
According to Sánchez Ley, the criminal organization “Patricio”, which for years operated under the guise of a migrant recruitment agency, built a millionaire business at the expense of the work of dozens of people who were forced to work in fields of cultivation in the United States. The criminal reign ended in 2019, when more than 200 North American police officers set up the operation Onion Blooming, to follow in their footsteps and find their whereabouts.
So far, arrest warrants have been issued against 24 people, who face criminal proceedings in the Georgia Prosecutor’s Office for forced labor and human trafficking, among other crimes.
The journalist also detected in judicial documents another 10 cases of “bosses” who have enslaved migrants. In sum, in the last four years 34 people have been prosecuted, most of them with Latin surnames although there are also some with English surnames.
Modern slavers operate mainly in the agricultural sector, one of the areas that employ thousands of migrants in the country, although in other cases Mexicans have even been forced to grow and sell drugs.
One of the latest cases was recorded on June 28, 2022, when US authorities were alerted that three people had been held at gunpoint and forced to work in McAllen, Texas, for approximately two weeks.
The investigation revealed that the victims were allegedly being housed separately and forced to work without pay. Two men were forced to sell drugs outside a club, while a woman was forced to work as a babysitter for a couple from Texas.
They are currently active in a US court where of the 34 people facing legal proceedings for charges related to forced labor, 25 are men, and nine are women. The cases were registered between 2019 and 2022, and in 33 judicial proceedings, the events occurred in a field in Georgia, Wisconsin, Florida, and Texas.
The journalist highlighted that according to prosecutors, cases such as that of the “Patricio” criminal organization, which operated mostly from the farms of South Georgia, between 2015 and 2019, the enslaved Mexicans have left them profits of up to 200 million dollars. They then laundered the funds through the cash purchase of land, houses, vehicles, and businesses, as well as siphoning off millions of dollars through a casino.
Laura Sánchez Ley also identified another criminal group known as “Los García” made up of a complete family: father, mother, brothers, and children.
They subjected 14 Mexican men to enslave them, taking away their papers and intimidating them, making them believe that if they did not perform work and services in the United States for them, they would suffer serious harm.
Court documents also reveal that it was in Mexico that they recruited their victims and tricked them into promising jobs, money, and a better life in the United States. However, when they arrived they were transferred and forced to work in Georgia and Wisconsin, amassing a large fortune.
The case is currently in a Wisconsin court, where they await sentencing.
According to End Slavery Now, the fishing, textile, construction, mining, and agricultural industries are particularly full of forced laborers. Many of them entered the United States under work or student visa programs.
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