Monday, June 7, 2010

Texas Court Sentences Couple for Modern-Day Slavery

On Friday, a U.S. District Court Judge sentenced an Arlington, Texas couple for holding their domestic worker in involuntary servitude for more than eight years. The couple will serve prison time and pay over $300,000 in fines for conspiracy to commit forced labor, forced labor, conspiracy to harbor an alien for financial gain, harboring an alien for financial gain, document servitude and false statements to an FBI agent.

According to a Department of Justice press release, the victim, "a widowed mother of six children, including a chronically ill child, was recruited in Nigeria with promises that her children would be cared for in exchange for her work in the United States. Upon arrival in the United States, the defendants confiscated the victim’s passport and never returned it. For more than eight years, the victim cared for the defendants’ children day and night, and cooked and cleaned with no days off. The defendants did not allow the victim out unsupervised; prohibited her from speaking with her children on the phone unsupervised; and forbid her to make friends or converse with the defendants’ friends. According to evidence at trial, the victim also testified that Emmanuel Nnaji also sexually assaulted her. Although the victim was promised that her family would be cared for, her family received a total of about $300 over the eight years. When the victim asked to return to Nigeria, the defendants refused. The victim was ultimately rescued with the assistance of a Catholic priest."

We at Human Rights USA wish these cases were unusual -- but sadly, they are not. So it is encouraging to see the Department of Justice aggressively prosecuting these crimes. We agree with Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division: "The involuntary servitude and mistreatment that this victim endured is intolerable in a nation founded on freedom and individual rights."

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