Filipino trafficking victims reunite with their families

By Monette Rivera, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Feb. 11, 2014

NEW YORK – Josie Gutierrez and Cecile Venzon left their families in the Philippines to chase their American dream – a promise of prosperity that turned into a nightmare.

They are also among the countless survivors of human and labor trafficking in the United States.

But thanks to the T visa, an immigration relief that allows certain victims of trafficking and immediate family members to remain and work in the US, they are now reunited with their loved ones.

“I’m the happiest mother in the world,” Gutierrez said. “Before I just see him on Facebook, but now he’s here with me.”

“I’m so happy I’m in America,” Gutierrez’ son John Kenneth Nadua said. “I get to be with my mother so I feel blessed. I wasn’t expecting this. I thought she was the one who is going home to the Philippines, but I get to come here instead.”

The journey to get to this joyful moment was not easy. Venzon, who declined to name her alleged abusive diplomat employer, worked as a housekeeper in Englewood, NJ in 2008.

She was promised a monthly rate of $1,600, but she says what she received was much less than that. She worked 17 hours a day with no overtime pay and no days off until she managed to escape her employer.

“I can’t describe my feelings,” Venzon said. “I wanted to cry. I haven’t seen my family for five longs years. It was hard, but my suffering is over and now I’m just so happy.

While Gutierrez, a domestic helper, left her employer of more than seven years, says she was paid only $400 a month or 94 cents an hour.

“I was threatened with deportation, forbidden to talk to Filipinos and I was not paid the right amount of wages because I’m not paying any taxes,” Gutierrez said. “I was even told that I don’t have the right to ask for wage increase.”

“She was in her trafficking for a long time,” Terri Nilliasca, an attorney for Damayan Migrant Workers Association, said. “The reason that happens a lot of times is that people don’t realize that, they know it’s is terrible, but they don’t know where to go, how to get help, and sometimes they feel that they owe some kind of debt their employer and so they don’t want to leave, they can’t leave.”

Damayan Migrant Workers Association, who helped these Filipinas escape and turn their lives around for the better, are encouraging Filipinos in such trafficking situations to come forward and get help.

“This is one of the moments that I’m proud of the organization for reuniting broken families of women migrant workers,” Damayan community organizer Linda Oalican said. “This is a very special day and I hope better things are in store for these trafficked women.”

Currently, Damayan is waiting for the Philippine consulate to sign the memorandum of understanding they sent last year that would give more protection for Filipino victims of human and labor trafficking.

3 Comments on this post.

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  • Damayan Migrant Workers Association » In the news: Balitang America reports about family reunification of trafficking survivors and their children
    11 February 2014 at 10:30 pm - Reply

    […] Balitang America’s Monette Rivera reports about the family reunification of Damayan’s trafficking survivor-leaders and their children. Damayan stands for the reunification of ALL families shattered by forced migration due to poverty and unemployment in the Philippines. #damayanfamilies #baklas #damayanngkabataan […]

  • Damayan Migrant Workers Association » In the news: Balitang America features family reunification of trafficking survivors and their children
    11 February 2014 at 10:37 pm - Reply

    […] Balitang America’s Monette Rivera reports about the family reunification of Damayan’s trafficking survivor-leaders and their children. Damayan stands for the reunification of ALL families shattered by forced migration due to poverty and unemployment in the Philippines. #damayanfamilies #baklas #damayanngkabataan […]

  • Joey
    12 February 2014 at 6:38 pm - Reply

    To Damayan MWAsso. if you want more victims of trafficking, all Philippines Embassy,Consulate staff and employees are allowed to bring housemaid helpers in the US. Most of them are under paid, visit their residential houses they have katulong and labandera from Pinas…

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