“Every month, I cooked a large pot of a special Filipino dish of ground beef, rice, tomato, carrots, and broccoli for the dogs, but was fed leftover food that had been in the refrigerator for days.”
This is what Nena Ruiz, a 74-year-old victim of human trafficking wrote in a piece for The Atlantic. Ms. Ruiz’s story is an example illustrating the fact that slavery still exists in the United States.
When many of us think of modern-day slavery, we think of the atrocities that slaveholders inflict on innocent people in Africa and the Middle East. However, nearly 150 years after the United States abolished slavery, there are still individuals who are subject to forced labor on our soil. These people are routinely abused; they are beaten, imprisoned, and made to endure many different types of mistreatment.
The slavery being practiced in America is no longer represented by southern whites owning blacks. Now, it has taken the form of human traffickers importing slaves from other countries to work for Americans and other individuals residing in the U.S.
Most susceptible to trafficking are illegal immigrants, a fact that the open borders lobby conveniently ignores. Nevertheless, while we are fighting over children being separated from parents at the border, criminals are taking advantage of our lax immigration policy to bring more slaves across our borders.
Nena Ruiz’s Enslavement
Nena Ruiz, a Filipino native who was 55 years old when she arrived in our country, became a victim of human trafficking. She was conned into coming to the United States when a relative told her that her boss needed someone to take care of an elderly family member. Ruiz had recently become financially destitute and needed a way to earn more income; she was offered almost three times what she was making as a teacher in her home country. Her relative, “added that she would petition for a specific kind of visa so my family could come to the U.S. too. I was overwhelmed with happiness and gratitude. I thought this was the answer to my prayers,” Ruiz wrote.
After she arrived in Los Angeles, Ruiz’s boss asked her to give up her passport. “She said she was going to extend my visa and petition for my family to come to America to be with me,” Ruiz said. Needless to say, she was ecstatic — she was going to earn more money without sacrificing time with her family.
Unfortunately, it was all a lie.
Ruiz wrote, “Within a week, I had a ‘daily work schedule’ taped to the wall in the kitchen. It ran from 5 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., which was incorrect since I also had to bring the dogs outside in the middle of the night.” Every day, Ruiz took care of the “cooking, cleaning, washing, vacuuming, ironing, dusting, hemming clothes, and maintaining the plants.”
She was subject to abusive and demeaning treatment from her boss, “I had to brush the dogs’ teeth, clean their ears, and give them vitamins each day, but I had to sleep on a dog bed in the living room, even though the house was large, with a guest room and music room. I kept my belongings in the laundry room.” While Ruiz had to prepare large meals for the dogs, she had to eat days-old leftovers. But it didn’t stop there. Her boss physically and verbally abused her on a routine basis:
“I felt that my boss disliked everything I did, no matter how hard I tried. She told me I was ignorant and brainless, and, as I later alleged in civil court, she hit me and pulled my hair, and left me with bruises and cuts.”
Ruiz was paid a pittance even though she worked about 18 hours per day. Her boss stated that Ruiz was, “Responsible for paying back my airfare and that of her mother since I couldn’t have come to America without her.” Ruiz had money deducted from her “salary” for items like shampoo and lotion. In total, she was given only $300 for the entire year she worked.
So why didn’t Ruiz leave? Because her boss threatened to call the authorities and have her arrested as her visa had expired. Ruiz wrote that she, “had no idea where to turn.” Finally, she found freedom when a neighbor in whom she had confided called the police and alerted them to her predicament. Regrettably, Ruiz is not alone — thousands of others have faced the same experience.
Illegal Immigration Leads to Modern-Day Slavery
The Federation for American Immigration Reform estimated that, “17,000 to 19,000 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States each year.” The Urban Institute recently conducted a study revealing that 29% of human trafficking victims entered the country illegally. 69% were unauthorized to live in the U.S. at the time they escaped slavery. Many of these victims enter the country legally by obtaining a visa but are forced to remain after their visa expires.
On the other hand, a large number of these individuals are smuggled over our southern border. The stories of these victims are similar to that of Ruiz — they are lured into the country with promises of earning a better living. The perpetrators tell them that their children will be able to attend American schools. Upon arriving in the United States, they are forced into labor, prostitution, pornography, and other types of sex slavery. Others are compelled to work in sweatshops and on farms. Slavery is one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises in the world today, and it is quickly becoming a dire issue in the U.S.
The Victims of Human Trafficking Matter
Right now, our country is embroiled in a heated debate over the separation of illegal immigrant families at the border. Even after President Trump signed an executive order allowing children to be detained with their parents, Democrats and others are still using the issue to criticize him. However, those who are shouting about these families are ignoring those who are truly being oppressed every day in the United States: victims of human trafficking.
The government should find a solution to the problem of illegal immigrant families being separated, but they cannot sacrifice potential victims of human trafficking to do so. The open borders movement claims that conservatives lack compassion. People who are forced into years of sex slavery, forced labor, and brutal mistreatment are suffering far more than children who are away from their parents for a matter of days. Given this reality, it is easy to determine who is truly lacking compassion.
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