Sunday, July 13, 2008

Victim of Domestic Slavery by Former Philippine Diplomat Gets T-Visa from U.S.

From the beginning:

Part I

Part II

From the Inquirer:

The US Immigration and Citizenship Services issued a T (for trafficking) visa last year to the Filipino woman who has sued Ambassador Lauro Baja Jr. and three others for trafficking, forced labor, peonage and racketeering. The immediate family members of the woman, Marichu Suarez Baoanan, were given T visa derivatives.

Because it is an avenue to permanent residency, the T visa is one of the most difficult to obtain. The quota is 5,000 a year, but only 1,000 were issued in its first three years of availability.

The requirements are quite stringent, demanding cooperation with the Immigration and Citizenship Enforcement Agency (ICE), which is part of Homeland Security and handles labor and sex trafficking cases.

ICE defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.”

For months, snippets of a tale had swirled among Filipino domestic workers in New York about a woman who had fled her employers, the family of a top-ranking Philippine diplomat. Only after Baoanan’s complaint was docketed at the Southern District of Manhattan did all the snippets click together into a story.

Finding legal help in New York is not difficult; finding the social space where one can heal is. An organization of domestic workers like Damayan can provide the latter. As for the former, there is the Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), as well as the law firm of Troutman Sanders. The two had earlier collaborated on a case involving two Filipino women who sued their Bergen, New Jersey, employers for six years of unpaid minimum wages and overtime pay.

Read the full article

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