Slavery is alive and well in Georgia
Not figurative slavery. Not kinda-slavery in some distant country.
But real, actual slavery in the United States.
A yearslong human trafficking operation trapped migrant workers in “modern-day slavery” on South Georgia farms, according to a federal indictment unsealed last week.
Victims include over 100 laborers smuggled from Mexico and Central America into “brutal” and “inhumane” working conditions. Under the threat of gun violence, some were allegedly forced to dig for onions with their bare hands, earning only 20 cents for each bucket harvested. At least two people died on the job. Another was allegedly repeatedly raped.
When not out in the fields, workers were detained in work camps surrounded by electric fencing, or held in cramped living quarters, including dirty trailers with raw sewage leaks. There was little to no access to food or safe drinking water.
That is just horrific. Unfortunately, that isn't all.
The crime ring that orchestrated the human trafficking operation reaped over $200 million from the illegal scheme. Conspirators are facing charges including mail fraud and mail fraud conspiracy, forced labor and forced labor conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and witness tampering.
Mercado-Spencer said the revelations inside the federal indictment were no surprise.
“This has been happening for a long time in Georgia. ... And these people that were arrested are not the only ones doing these things,” she said. “I hope (law enforcement) keeps busting these operations because that’s not the only one going on in Georgia.”
“All you see is, you know, your onions at Kroger. You can go buy them. You don’t know where they came from. But this is happening and nobody notices it. And these are essential workers that have been keeping us fed through the pandemic.”
Hurrah for the essential workers!
How did the slave traders get their hands on these slaves? The H-2A guest-worker visa program.
Now comes the really depressing part: One in 200 people in the world today is a slave.
The word “slavery” conjures up images of shackles and transatlantic ships – depictions that seem relegated firmly to the past. But more people are enslaved today than at any other time in history. Experts have calculated that roughly 13 million people were captured and sold as slaves between the 15th and 19th centuries; today, an estimated 40.3 million people – more than three times the figure during the transatlantic slave trade – are living in some form of modern slavery, according to the latest figures published by the UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Walk Free Foundation.
Slavery is big business. Globally, slavery generates as much as $150bn (£116bn) in profits every year, more than one third of which ($46.9bn) is generated in developed countries, including the EU. Whereas slave traders two centuries ago were forced to contend with costly journeys and high mortality rates, modern exploiters have lower overheads thanks to huge advances in technology and transportation.
Technology is not going to set anyone free.
1 in 4 of slaves are children. 70% of slaves are female.
The most common form of slavery is debt bondage.