OFW labor trafficking victim speaks out against employer
NEW YORK, NY — Luis Belvis, a guest worker from the Philippines, came to the US to work as a waiter under an H2-B visa in 2012.
Belvis is among 3 Filipinos suing their employer, Ralph Colamussi — owner of Historical Thatched Cottage Caterers in Long Island, New York — for labor trafficking.
His recruiter, Roberto Villanueva, is the brother of another alleged labor trafficker Jojo Villanueva also wanted for allegedly trafficking several overseas Filipino workers.
According to court documents, Villanueva and Colamussi allegedly conspired to fraudulently recruit Belvis and two others to work without proper compensation.
“Pag nag-complain sila hindi sila binabayaran ng tama, walang overtime, late ang mga payments they were threatened with being reported to the immigration services, papadeport daw,” said Atty. Felix Vinluan.
“Wala kang peace of mind?” asked Belvis. “Nagtatrabaho ka lumiipad yung ano mo eh, minsan mali-mali na eh, kulang ka na dun sa pag-aalala mo dahil wala ka nang napapadala, tapos dito gaganunin ka pa, kung mahina lang yung ano mo, talagang makakadisgrasya ka ng tao…”
Atty. Vinluan says Belvis and the other workers were forced to continue working for Colamussi, and were subjected to deplorable living conditions.
Court documents also show that these OFW’s were allegedly forced to render services not included in their job descriptions as servers or waiters.
“Lahat pati pag-pala ng snow sa buong restaurant, ginagawa namin yun tapos nag-co-construction kami, lahat, pero ang nakasulat sa H2-B… server lang talaga.”
The good news is one of his prayers has been answered. Belvis has been granted a trafficking visa or T-visa – which means he can legally live and work in the US while waiting for the final judgement of his civil lawsuit.
“Huwag sila matakot, kasi para sa kinabukasan nila ng pamilya nila ito. Andyan yung mga abogado nating magagaling.”
Belvis is seeking more than $125,000 that includes: unpaid regular wages, unpaid overtime work, and other damages.
Belvis may also adjust his status to permanent resident in about three years of good status, and be able to bring his immediate family to the US.