Client Story: Trafficking

vietnam_r1_c1Anh, 38, is an interpreter from Vietnam. In the late 1990’s she was recruited by a Vietnamese company to work as a Vietnamese-Korean interpreter at a factory in American Samoa. She was promised free housing and food, and money for overtime. She was told if she broke her contract before her three-year term ended, she would have to pay $5,000 to the Vietnamese government. Before she left, Anh was required to pay a substantial sum for her plane ticket to American Samoa and when she arrived her employer took her passport and plane ticket.

At the factory she lived with 16 other women in a room with half the number of beds. She would often find maggots in room and in her food. At first the workers had plenty of food, but the situation soon deteriorated and the women were forced to beg for food and sometimes there wasn’t enough food to feed everyone. She, along with some other workers, were paid irregularly and refused to sign a new contract that would force them to pay for their food and housing. Shortly thereafter, Anh and 18 other workers were sent back to Vietnam. In total she was paid less than $950 for her five months of work in American Samoa.

Once she returned to Vietnam, Anh was constantly harassed for the $5,000 she was to pay the Vietnamese government for “allegedly” breaking her contract. She was also black-listed and seen as someone who was a dangerous troublemaker and needed to be watched.

In early 2001, the FBI rescued the rest of the workers who were still working at the factory in American Samoa and criminal charges were filed against the factory owner. At the same time, the United States government placed Anh, along with other factory workers, on a list of witnesses they wanted to testify about the conditions in the the factory in the trial of the factory owner. She came to the U.S. in mid-2002 and helped the U.S. government in it’s criminal case against her former employer. The judge found the factory owner and the agency that recruited the workers guilty for back wages, for charging illegal fees, for poor living conditions, and for illegally withholding passports.

Once she came to the U.S., Anh feared returning to Vietnam because the recruiting agency was connected to the government and she owed the government $5,000 in a country where the average salary is $25 per month. Anh was eligible to apply for a T-Visa because she was a victim of forced labor and assisted the U.S. government in their trial against the factory owner.

HRI helped Anh receive her T-Visa and later her Green Card. She is currently pursuing an MBA and runs a business with her husband.

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