Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thai slave laborers freed in El Monte become U.S. citizens


Maliwan Clinton recalls her first taste of America with a shudder. In this fabled land of the free, she was enslaved behind razor wire and around-the-clock guards in an El Monte sweatshop, where she and more than 70 other Thai laborers were forced to work 18-hour days for what amounted to less than a dollar an hour.

The El Monte case drew international attention, blazed new paths in immigration and labor law, led to legislation offering visas for victims of human trafficking and became the subject of an exhibit in the Smithsonian Institution.

The case marked the first time in federal court that garment workers successfully held manufacturers and retailers responsible for the actions of their labor contractor.

It was the shocking nature of modern-day slavery in such a nondescript American neighborhood that so riveted the nation, Su said.

Ultimately, law enforcement officers arrested eight operators of a Chinese Thai garment sweatshop in an early morning raid in August 1995 and freed 72 Thai immigrants, some of whom had been held captive for at least four years.

Clinton and the Chuai Ngans said that whatever travails they endured here, their American journeys have been well worth taking.

Holy shit. That line made me tear up a little.

I was gonna make some partisan point about Ms. Clinton taking the name of the President under whom she was freed after the labor laws against slavery went unenforced during Bush I's reign, but I think it's just her married name so I can't do that. Drat!

Welcome to American citizenship, ladies. You sure as shit paid for it.

No comments: