This Labor Day, Cast’s Managing Attorney shares an open letter about a special labor trafficking survivor, Gabriel.
Since I started as an attorney at Cast in 2017, Labor Day has been a difficult holiday. I love a cookout as much as anyone, but I feel conflicted about celebrating while thousands are being trafficked for labor.
What could Labor Day possibly mean to a person being forced to work against their will?
I think about people like Gabriel, a 50-year-old father who came to the US from Mexico to make money to support his family. Gabriel came on a professional work visa as a highly experienced mechanical engineer, and after multiple interviews, he believed he had a good engineering job waiting for him in the US. However, when Gabriel arrived, he quickly realized that the job recruiter had lied to him.
Gabriel’s story is more common than you might think; more than 40% of labor trafficking survivors are men and nearly half come to the US on a temporary work visa.
Working 12-15 hour shifts on a poultry farm in Atlanta, Gabriel was forced to deal with hazardous materials and faulty machinery and was continuously guarded and monitored – even during his sleep, Gabriel was often threatened with a gun. He suffered daily physical abuse and threats, all while his wages were stolen by his traffickers.
Gabriel was eventually able to escape to California, but his ordeal was far from over. Cast set to work on getting him a visa designated for victims of trafficking (T-visa) but due to the rules, leaving the US to see his family would disqualify him.
As the delays with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services were worsened by the pandemic, Gabriel had to wait nearly two years for news on his visa application. For those two years, he was unable to see his family, had to survive without a work visa, and could only get manual labor jobs. He stayed in shelters and on friends’ couches.
Cast fought hard for him – as we have done with thousands of other survivors of human trafficking – and we were ultimately able to help secure Gabriel’s T visa and to reunite him with his family. Gabriel’s ordeal should never have happened but Cast was there to help him move on with his life and to enjoy his rights.
Cast works to make the promise of Labor Day real, so that every person can be free, paid fairly, and have safe working conditions. This Labor Day, join our efforts to end human trafficking and support survivors like Gabriel by making a donation to Cast.
DF, Cast Managing Attorney