Things That Matter

Two Cases Out Of California Are Highlighting The Growing Issue Of Migrants Being Used As Forced Labor

A Hayward contractor was sentenced last week to more than eight years in prison after a federal jury convicted him of recruiting workers to illegally come from Mexico and work for little or no pay. The man, Job Torres Hernandez, who also goes by Joe Torres, was ordered to pay nearly $920,000 in unpaid wages. According to KRON4, Torres forced immigrants to live in terrible conditions and at times made employees “work for as long as 24 consecutive hours at a time.”

Many are now asking how did this happen and how did Torres get away with it?

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This all started as back as May 2015 when Torres’ construction companies knowingly recruited and hired illegal workers from Mexico. Prosecutors say Torres kept dozens of the undocumented workers on make-do beds in a commercial warehouse, that included a small garage.

Conditions were abysmal as workers had to deal with limited access to toilets and showers. Sometimes the warehouse and garage were locked to stop workers from leaving. According to witnesses, when workers would complain about pay and living conditions, Torres threatened to deport them and their families.

Torres would be convicted of obtaining forced labor and of harboring illegal aliens for commercial advantage.

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“Undocumented immigrant communities within the United States—often times and evident in this case—are commonly preyed upon by transnational criminal organizations and inhumane criminals, like Torres, who are motivated by greed by exploiting vulnerable people,” Ryan L. Spradlin, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge (San Francisco and Northern California) told KRON4.

Defense attorneys said in court that Torres, who had a second-grade education in Mexico, was presumably illiterate. They say that he did not comprehend business practices and only offered workers to stay in the warehouse since there was no other place to stay.

The prosecution didn’t buy the story. Torres will now spend up to eight and a half years in prison and pay back the unpaid wages to 13 workers.

“It’s important to know that Homeland Security Investigations does not initiate an investigation because of someone’s citizenship. We initiate an investigation because of alleged criminal activity,” Spradlin said. “It does not matter to us whether a person is undocumented. It’s our job to help victims and bring criminals to justice.”

This news comes after another case of forced work upon an undocumented migrant was revealed in Northern California.

Credit: @FBISacramento / Twitter

Nery Martinez, 50, and Maura Martinez, 50, of Shasta Lake, CA, are being charged with conspiracy, forced labor and alien harboring for financial gain. The couple allegedly brought a Guatemalan woman and her two daughters, both minors, to the U.S. using temporary visitor visas in 2016. They would be harbored and after their visas expired, forced them to work long hours at a restaurant and cleaning service for little to no pay.

The Guatemalan family was imposed a false $12,000 debt to keep them from returning to Guatemala. They were also abused multiple times, threatened with arrest and physical violence that included the two girls being struck with a stick.

According to the indictment, the stopped in February 2018 but authorities have yet to say what happened to the woman and her daughters afterward. If the couple faces charges which carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison if fully convicted.

READ: Migrant Youth Share Their Experience With Abuse At Detention Centers In Harrowing Letters

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Democratic Senators Introduce Legislation to Grant Venezuelan Migrants Temporary Protected Status, Prevent Deportation

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Democratic Senators Introduce Legislation to Grant Venezuelan Migrants Temporary Protected Status, Prevent Deportation

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After years of living in a state of uncertainty about their future, Venezuelan refugees in the U.S. might finally be granted long-term protection by the U.S. government.

On Monday, Democratic senators took the official steps towards granting Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Venezuelan migrants in the U.S.

A similar resolution passed in the House in 2019, but was blocked by Republicans in the senate.

This time if passed, TPS could protect 200,000 Venezuelan citizens currently in the U.S, according to estimates from the Congressional Budget Office.

Although former President Trump issued a Deferred Enforced Departure decree (DED) on his final day in office, critics and immigration experts alike argue that this action didn’t go far enough.

“After four years of empty promises and deceit, nobody believes Donald Trump had an epiphany on his last day in office and decided to protect the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans he was forcing into the shadows,” said New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez in a statement.

Indeed, Trump DED order only delayed deportation of undocumented Venezuelans for up to 18 months. But TPS would grant Venezuelan refugees protected status.

“TPS is an immigration status that can lead to a green card under President Joe Biden’s immigration proposal,” Miami-based immigration lawyer Laura Jimenez told NBC News.

“TPS is based in statute and is a legal immigration status, as opposed to Deferred Enforced Departure,” Menendez, who was born in New York City to Cuban immigrants, said. “That is why we are relaunching our campaign to actually stand with those fleeing the misery caused by the Maduro regime.”

Throughout his campaign, President Biden promised he would extend Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelan refugees, so now the refugee community wants to see him act on that promise.

Venezuela’s economy collapsed under the repressive regime of Nicolás Maduro, shrinking by approximately 64%.

Not only are there widespread food shortages and massive inflation, but Maduro’s critics are being jailed and silenced by other nefarious means.

Because of all this, the South American country facing what Bloomberg calls “a refugee crisis of unprecedented proportions.” As of now, some 5.4 million Venezuelans are in exile, with 600 more leaving the country every day.

But with the news of a likely extension of Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelans in the U.S., many Venezuelans are starting to feel optimistic about the future.

“Now, I feel like I’m really a part of this society and we keep supporting this country,” said Tampa resident Jennifer Infante to Bay News 9 about the recent Congressional news. “I think we deserve this opportunity because we came to make this country a better place and to keep moving forward.”

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Here Are The Executive Actions That President Biden Is Signing His First Day In Office

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Here Are The Executive Actions That President Biden Is Signing His First Day In Office

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President Joe Biden has a lot of work ahead of him and he is hitting the ground running. On his first day in office, President Biden has a series of executive actions he is signing to reverse a lot of the damage created by the Trump administration. Here are some of the things President Biden will do with these actions.

The border wall on the southern border is done, y’all.

President Biden is saving the taxpayers billions of dollars by halting the construction of President Trump’s border wall. The border wall is one of former President Trump’s several unfulfilled promises at the expense of the taxpayers.

Despite his unrelenting campaign, Mexico never paid a dime to the wall. President Biden’s action to halt the border wall is a humanitarian and conservationist move that will save billions of tax dollars. According to estimates, there would be $3.3 billion in unused funds in the projects accounts.

The emotionally devastating Muslim ban will finally come to an end.

Former President Trump famously put an end to travel from predominantly Muslim countries. The order arbitrarily excluded a group of people based on their religion. The order that has kept families apart for years is finally coming to an end thanks to President Biden.

President Biden’s ation will bring families together and safeguards the rights of religious freedom. The ban has kept spouses separated, children apart from parents, and caused real damage. There is more to be done to make up for the stain on American history and the action is the first step.

The Keystone XL Pipeline is toast.

We all remember the terrifying scenes of Native people being brutalized by federal officials under Trump’s command. President Biden will make sure that the permit for the pipeline is revoked and put an end to a project that has been devastating the Native community. Activists have been fighting for years to get this done.

Undocumented people will have to be included in census counts.

President Biden is getting rid of the Trump administration’s terrible policy of ignoring undocumented people in the census. There have been several arguments by officials that the move would work to undermine certain states. The policy would take federal money away from states that did not support the former president and have high undocumented populations.

President Biden is going to preserve DACA.

More than 600,000 people benefit from the Obama-era program. Former President Trump waged a war against DACA and Dreamers for political points. Most Americans support DACA and a pathway to citizenship for DACA beneficiaries. With the new executive action, President Biden will instruct the federal government to restore the program to its fullest.

There is still a lawsuit the Biden administration will have to fight. The lawsuit challenging DACA’s legality was filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

In total, President Biden will sign 17 executive actions that will roll back several issues created by the previous administration.

“Today, hours after taking the oath of office, President-elect Biden will take a historic number of actions to deliver immediate relief for families across America that are struggling in the face of converging crises. He will sign a combination of executive orders, memoranda, directives, and letters to take initial steps to address these crises, including by changing the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, providing economic relief, tackling climate change, and advancing racial equity,” reads a statement from the Biden-Harris Transition Team. “President-elect Biden will take action — not just to reverse the gravest damages of the Trump administration — but also to start moving our country forward. These actions are bold, begin the work of following through on President-elect Biden’s promises to the American people, and, importantly, fall within the constitutional role for the president.”

READ: President Joe Biden’s And Vice President Kamala Harris’ Inauguration Represented America

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