Posts Tagged ‘immigrants’

Modern Day Slavery

Thursday, April 22nd, 2004

“Slavery is not just the shameful stuff of history books – not in Florida”

“For nine months, The Palm Beach Post explored the roots of modern-day slavery. Reporters and photographers traveled to destitute Mexican villages, crossed the desert with a smuggler, rode across the U.S. with illegal immigrants, found new claims of slavery, uncovered rampant Social Security fraud, and found that Florida’s famous orange juice comes with hidden costs.”

This series is stunning. That gross human rights and labor abuses occur in this country is not a surprise; that they thrive on such a scale and with such complicity from an entire industry, and with a nod and a wink from state authorities — well, color me naive, but that’s the shocker.
The text and photos speak for themselves. Here is an excerpt from the introduction:

“They slip across the Mexican border at great peril, cross the country in the dark hollows of vans, stay silent as they are “bought” and “sold” in fruit groves and rest stops dotting the American landscape.

A destitute minority in a wealthy, well-fed society, they are packed like prisoners into unfit housing, ferried to work in unsafe vehicles and compelled to labor long hours — under fake names and numbers — for substandard wages.

Enslaved by debt from the very moment they arrive, they contribute mightily to Florida’s $62 billion agricultural industry, yet they earn little in return.
In the worst cases, they are threatened, beaten and locked up in their dingy quarters to prevent their escape.

This is the state of the harvest in 2003.

“The richest, most powerful people in the state are benefiting from this,” says Rob Williams, director of the Migrant Farmworker Justice Project, a legal advocacy group in Florida. “They don’t want it to change.”