Human Trafficking in Minnesota

Human trafficking includes labor trafficking, not just sex trafficking. In Minneapolis, the  Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL) has helped track the abusive labor practices that led to a criminal complaint against Ricardo Batres and his American Contractors and Associates for labor trafficking, theft of public funds, and insurance fraud. Workday MInnesota details the underlying facts:

“According to the criminal complaint, Batres recruited laborers for wood wall framing and sheetrock installation. Batres used their undocumented status as leverage to force them to work long hours with low pay and without adequate safety protection. He told his employees they would lose their job and be deported if they went to a doctor for injuries suffered on the job.

“The criminal complaint asserts that in May 2017, Batres hired about a dozen men, promising them wages, benefits, and, in some cases, housing. However, once they arrived at the job sites, they learned that they were working 10 to 12 hours per day, usually six days a week. They were not paid overtime and were often working as high as six stories above ground without proper safety equipment, according to the complaint.

“Zavala Lopez worked for Batres for three months. While working, a wall fell on him, severely injuring his back. He was left alone for an hour before it was decided that, instead of going to the doctor, Zavala Lopez would be treated by a massage therapist. The massage aggravated the injury and Zavala Lopez was eventually moved to a hospital. Batres told Zavala Lopez not to report the incident or Batres would report him to immigration. Batres had promised Zavala Lopez money for living expenses while he recuperated, but only gave him $200 a week. Zavala Lopez still struggles with mobility due to his injuries despite 10 months of treatment and physical therapy.”

Due Process? Nope.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions continues to deny due process and defy court orders. In the Pereira case, the Supreme Court ordered that Notices to Appear (NTA) must include a time and date and place for a hearing. The NTA begins deportation proceedings. Since the court order, DHS has issued NTAs with erroneous hearing dates (e.g., September 31) or times (midnight?) or without scheduling the hearing in immigration court. As one immigration attorney explains:

“Imagine having to go to traffic court even though the police officer wrote your ticket on a napkin, didn’t sign it, and it didn’t tell you when and where your court would be (or what you were being charged with). You or your attorney would march into court arguing this isn’t really a ticket, so why on earth am I even here? You would easily get the proceedings thrown out, because they were started improperly.

“The difference here is that unlike traffic court, immigration court can result in lifetime expulsion from the United States for individuals who may have a good reason to fear being harmed or killed if deported. And not showing up to court means an automatic order of removal….

“The Pereira decision left the DOJ with a pretty clear command from the Supreme Court: turn your system back on so DHS can schedule hearings. Most who practice in this area thought the Department of Justice would comply. Unfortunately, they haven’t.”

Sessions has referred another immigration case to himself for review, this time focusing on release conditions or bond for detained immigrants. Axios sums up the problem:

“Why it matters: If Sessions decides that asylum-seekers who establish credible fear do not have a right to a bond hearing, “it will mean tens of thousands of border crossers will now be subject to mandatory detention, which means ICE will need significant new funding in order to house people,” immigration lawyer at Holland & Knight and former DOJ attorney Leon Fresco tells Axios.”

Immigrants in detention will wait longer for a hearing; the backlog of cases at the end of August ballooned to 764,561, the largest number ever. The number at the end of 2016: 516,031.

About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet, www.tcdailyplanet.net, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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