FULLERTON – A Filipina labor trafficking survivor testified at a Congressional hearing on Tuesday, detailing how she was brought to the country and forced to work at an elderly care home.
Angela Guanzon, 36, said she was so naive and excited to come to the United States in 2005 that she didn’t ask her recruiter any questions of what she’d be doing when she arrive.
Just coming to the US, I thought I had won the lottery, Guanzon said.
But there were no riches awaiting her. Instead, she found herself working at an elderly care home for two years with a 10-year debt-bondage contract over her head.
“I worked 18-hour days and had to sleep on the floor in a hallway,” Guanzon said. “My co-workers and I were threatened if we tried to escape. I would be deported by calling the police and telling them that we stole something.”
With a steely demeanor, the 36-year-old Guanzon paused at times , while she recounted her story on Tuesday at a House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing at California State University, Fullerton.
Titled “Regional Perspectives in the Global Fight Against Human Trafficking”, the field hearing examined what the State Department, law enforcement agencies and community organizations are doing to combat labor trafficking.
Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton), who chairs the Human Trafficking Congressional Advisory Committee hosted the event.
According to Royce, “Human trafficking is today’s slavery,” and that it “devastates the lives of over 20 million people around the world.”
“With increasing globalization and transnational gang and criminal activity, it is hard to draw much of a line between domestic and international trafficking.”
Human trafficking, which includes sex and labor, is a $32 billion criminal enterprise worldwide. It is second only to narcotics, according to US officials.
In the Filipino community, Guanzon’s story is not uncommon.
The Philippines is notoriously known as a source country where human trafficking is pervasive. The US State Department lists the Philippines in Tier 2.
Some 10 million Filipinos work abroad and a number of these migrants are abused and subjected to slave like conditions working in factories, agricultural plantations and domestic workers across the globe, according to Humantrafficking.org.
Mired in poverty, countless Filipino men and women looking for an opportunity to support their family fall victim to unscrupulous recruiters and agencies, said Kay Buck, executive director of Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking.
“The Philippines is the second largest victim population we’re serving. It’s a combination of sex and labor trafficking,” Buck said.
Buck said she’s hoping new legislation brought up by Congressman Royce will help curb labor trafficking.
The FBI rescued Guanzon and several other workers in 2008. She said she testified because she doesn’t want what happened to her, happen to anyone else.
“I know going to America is a big opportunity but make sure you get all of the information before you go,” she said.
(LA Weekend November 9-12, 2013 Sec A pg.5)