Two pinoy trafficking victims find hope in U.S.

By Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Oct. 29, 2013

LONG BEACH, Calif. – Two Filipino caregivers have been awarded trafficking visas earlier this month, but their identities have been protected out of fear of retaliation.

“Carlos” was a seafarer from Iloilo and “Josephine”, a teacher from Pangasinan.

In 2010, they thought they finally got a chance at a better life in America when they were promised work visas for hotel jobs that pay almost $8 an hour by the now defunct Adman Agency in the Philippines.

But when they arrived in Arizona, their employers told them they would work as caregivers, earning less than $2 an hour.

“My employer brought me to a carehome and I asked him why I was here. He yelled at me and said that everything the agency told me in Manila were all lies. He told me I wasn’t going to work as a hotel housekeeper, but as a caregiver,” “Josephine” said.

The two first met at the Adman Agency office in Manila where they each spent about P350,000 on placement, training, travel fees, as well as loans to fund their chance at America in exchange for work visas they thought would be hotel jobs in Arizona.

“We were concerned of what would happen to us if they did not renew our work visas. Will we go home or will we continue living in the U.S.? That would mean becoming undocumented immigrants. Then, the next thing we knew, they took away our passports, even our contracts,” “Carlos” said.

With passports confiscated and debt from having to pay off Adman’s fees, as well as earning for their families in the Philippines, they said they had no choice but to work as caregivers.

“I had no experience at all about caregiving so my employer told me to enroll in a caregiving class again,” Josephine said. “So, I had to pay.”

Conditions only got worse inside the workplace. A work week meant at least six 24-hour days for about $200 a week with as many as five patients.

“In one carehome, there were five patients. All of them had stroke or Parkinson’s. All of them where on a wheelchair. I had to take care of all of them, give them baths, feed them, give them medicines. I also had to make sure the place was clean. It was a 24/7 kind of work. The living conditions were bad too. I would sometimes sleep on the couch, sometimes on the floor,” Carlos lamented.

They were threatened with deportation and breach of contract lawsuits if they complained. Less than two months into the job they each fled, and eventually reunited in California where their work visas expired. They continued working under the table as caregivers until they realized they may be victims of human trafficking.

“I don’t want to be an undocumented immigrant in America. I came here because I wanted to legally work and help my family,” Carlos pointed out.

With the help of Filipino community groups, the University of Southern California, and the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, Carlos and Josephine were approved for trafficking visas earlier this month.

Under a trafficking visa, both Carlos and Josephine, who still work as caregivers for now, will have a path to a green card, as well as the chance to petition their spouses and underage children.

Adman is believed to be out of business after it faced civil and criminal lawsuits from other overseas Filipino workers for similar scenarios. Filipino activists said the problem will continue for as long as quality jobs and wages remain scarce in the Philippines and enforcement remains lax.

“There are so many of these fraudulent agencies that continue to come back and traffic more and more of our overseas Filipino workers and the Philippine government is either slow or really complacent in acting against these things,” Alex Montances of the National Alliance of Filipino Concerns said. “What we really want to see is real enforcement,”

“Carlos” and “Josephine” said there were at least 10 more workers in their batch. However, they said some where afraid to come forward, while a few entered fixed marriages with U.S. citizens.

You can contact Steve Angles at steve_angeles@abs-cbn.com for more information.

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  • JD
    30 October 2013 at 1:42 pm - Reply

    I was wondering, how many filipinos was sent to America by Adman Agency from philippines with working visa to work at hotels ? Beside Carlos and Josephine and 10 workers in their batch. The philippine government should watch this type of crime. This is a very sad case !

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