Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher Bill Cracks Down on Labor Trafficking

Thursday, February 15, 2018

SACRAMENTO  – (Thursday, February 15, 2018) – California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) today introduced a bill to crack down on labor trafficking, a brutal form of modern-day slavery that’s become prevalent in a number of California industries, including farming and domestic work. Victims of this trafficking are often at the mercy of employers who seize their immigration papers and force them to work in subhuman conditions under threat of reporting them to immigration authorities.

Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher worked closely with San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan, whose office played a key role in drafting the legislation.

“It’s modern-day slavery,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher said. “These are victims who are forced to work in conditions that would seem unimaginable in today’s America. The stories are revolting and heart-breaking. We must keep exposing these outrages and do everything in our power to stop them from happening.”

District Attorney Summer Stephan said, “Trafficker use force, fraud and coercion to exploit labor from their victims and this bill makes it clear to unscrupulous employers that it’s unlawful to control a person’s work visas, passport and immigration documents. These are common-sense protections that will improve dignity and liberty for workers and provide clarity to employers."

The bill, AB 2732, would make it a misdemeanor for someone to seize a worker’s immigration documents for the purpose of engaging in human trafficking. The bill would also impose fines of up to $10,000 for this conduct. Workers would be required to sign a “Workers Bill of Rights,” in which they’re made aware of all their rights under labor law, such as the right to a minimum wage and the right to keep possession of their own immigration documents.

Labor trafficking “involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to compel labor,” the Urban Institute-Northeastern University noted in a 2014 report, adding that such trafficking often includes “seizing travel documents to prevent laborers from leaving an undesirable working arrangement, threatening deportation if they complain, isolating them and restricting their communications.”

Virtually all victims of labor trafficking are immigrants. Roughly 70% come into the country legally, usually through temporary visas, the Urban Institute found. These immigrants are often brought to the U.S. through shady groups making false promises about the type of work that awaits them. Immigrants paid an average of $6,150 in fees to these “recruiters,” according to the study.  Once these immigrants arrive in the U.S., they find themselves forced into horrific working conditions with little or no recourse. Nearly 70% of these immigrants were undocumented by the time they were able to escape their forced-labor jobs, the study found.

A recent San Diego State University study estimated that 30,000 victims of labor trafficking live just in San Diego County. Of the undocumented, Spanish-speaking migrant workers interviewed for the study, 31% had experienced labor trafficking. 

For more information on this issue or to schedule an interview with Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher, contact Alex Roth at 619-228-3253.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher represents California’s 80th Assembly District, located in southern San Diego County, including the cities of San Diego, Chula Vista, and National City. She serves as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Appropriations, Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Women in the Workplace, and Vice Chair of the California Latino Legislative Caucus. For more information on Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher visit https://a80.asmdc.org/