In Plain Sight

by Jon lowenstein


 Photographs of victims of forced labor in the United States. 

Photographs from slave labor camp near Immokalee, Florida where Miguel Flores and Sebastian Gomez, among others, forced mostly undocumented Central American and Mexican migrants to become modern day slaves. The labor camp, although decaying still stands where it stood in 1997, when the two men were prosecuted. 

 In 1997, Miguel Flores and Sebastian Gomez were sentenced to 15 years each in federal prison on slavery, extortion, and firearms charges, amongst others. Flores and Gomez had a workforce of over 400 men and women in Florida and South Carolina, harvesting vegetables and citrus. The workers, mostly indigenous Mexicans and Guatemalans, were forced to work 10-12 hour days, 6 days per week, for as little as $20 per week, under the watch of armed guards. Those who attempted escape were assaulted, pistol-whipped, and even shot. The case was brought to federal authorities after five years of investigation by escaped workers and members from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

This project is supported by Lexis Nexis

Slavery dies hard in the southern USA.

New revelations that unidentified bodies of young boys are buried in the cemetery at the now closed Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Florida’s Panhandle, has brought forth more disturbing talks of slave labor and violent brutality at the scandal ridden facility.

Thousands of boys, mainly black, passed through Dozier since it opened in 1901 as a reform school for wayward boys. But allegations over the years suggest it functioned more like a slave labor camp, with verified reports of children being hog tied and shackled.

 Photographs of victims of forced labor in the United States. Photographs of victims of forced labor in the United States. 

For more than a year Geronimo Sanchez Bravo was forced to work and live as a slave in downtown Immokalee for about a year. During that time he was forced to live in a large truck in the front yard of a normal looking house and pick tomatoes for his captors. . Eventually, several workers made a hole in the top of the truck and were able to escape and get help. They went directly to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers who helped Geronimo and the others to escape. Geronimo testified against his captors. He still lives in Immokalee and is happy that he's free. He now is an active member of the anti-slavery movement and works hard for the rights of his fellow workers. He still picks tomatoes. 

This project is supported by Lexis Nexis
 
 Photographs of victims of forced labor in the United States. Photographs of victims of forced labor in the United States. 

Chains that were used to keep Geronimo Sanchez Bravo inside a large truck every night after he worked picking tomatoes for his captors.

For more than a year Geronimo Sanchez Bravo was forced to work and live as a slave in downtown Immokalee for about a year. During that time he was forced to live in a large truck in the front yard of a normal looking house and pick tomatoes for his captors. . Eventually, several workers made a hole in the top of the truck and were able to escape and get help. They went directly to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers who helped Geronimo and the others to escape. Geronimo testified against his captors. He still lives in Immokalee and is happy that he's free. He now is an active member of the anti-slavery movement and works hard for the rights of his fellow workers. He still picks tomatoes. 

 In December 2008, employers Cesar and Geovanni Navarrete were sentenced to 12 years each in federal prison on charges of conspiracy, holding workers in involuntary servitude, and peonage. They had employed dozens of tomato pickers in Florida and South Carolina. As stated in the DOJ press release on their sentencing, "[the employers] pleaed guilty to beating, threatening, restraining, and locking workers in trucks to force them to work as agricultural laborers... [They] were accused of paying the workers minimal wages and driving the workers into debt, while simultaneously threatening physical harm if the workers left their employment before their debts had been repaid to the Navarrete family." Workers first reported the abuse to Collier County police, and additional workers sought help from the CIW. The CIW collaborated with the DOJ and the police on the year-long investigation and prosecution.

This project is supported by Lexis Nexis
 Photographs of victims of forced labor in the United States. Photographs of victims of forced labor in the United States. 

Photographs from slave labor camp near Immokalee, Florida where Miguel Flores and Sebastian Gomez, among others, forced mostly undocumented Central American and Mexican migrants to become modern day slaves. The labor camp, although decaying still stands where it stood in 1997, when the two men were prosecuted. 

 In 1997, Miguel Flores and Sebastian Gomez were sentenced to 15 years each in federal prison on slavery, extortion, and firearms charges, amongst others. Flores and Gomez had a workforce of over 400 men and women in Florida and South Carolina, harvesting vegetables and citrus. The workers, mostly indigenous Mexicans and Guatemalans, were forced to work 10-12 hour days, 6 days per week, for as little as $20 per week, under the watch of armed guards. Those who attempted escape were assaulted, pistol-whipped, and even shot. The case was brought to federal authorities after five years of investigation by escaped workers and members from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

This project is supported by Lexis Nexis

Most of the stories in news reports have been told by white men. For the first time, black men, organized as the Black Boys at Dozier , a survivors group, returned to the now closed facility, to share their histories.

Modern day trafficking in America defies stereotypes: the victims come from all types of backgrounds, economic classes and education levels.What all of them have in common is that they were forced against their will, and often under physical or psychological threat, to be enslaved.
The people in this project are the lucky ones: they escaped. Each year many are murdered by their captors.The others languish in the daily reality of modern day slavery.

 Photographs of victims of forced labor in the United States. 

Thousands of people are trafficked on America's immense and complicated system of highways and roads throughout the United States each year.
This project is supported by Lexis Nexis
 Photographs of victims of forced labor in the United States. 

Christabelle was born in Massachusetts but moved around with her father who was in the military. From the age of six her father sexually molested her, made her do forced labor,  both domestic and in the garden and rented her out to his friends who used her as a domestic worker and sex slave. This lasted until she was 12. She eventually escaped and found herself battling a severe alcohol problem and then became a prostitute working her way around the United States, from truck stop to truck stop. Eventually, she met an older woman who helped her to stop drinking and she now resides in a homeless shelter as she tries to rebuild her life. The organization Fair Girls is helping her to rebuild her life.
This project is supported by Lexis Nexis
 Photographs of victims of forced labor in the United States. 

Nilda came to the United States when a friend of her employer in Guatemala City offered he a job working as a domestic worker. Her employers had always treated her well and as the oldest in her family she jumped at the opportunity to travel to the United States and make money to help her younger siblings and parents survive. 

Once in the United States she entered a hellish situation of working about 16 hours a day for almost no pay. Her employers, who were Honduran, sent her mother $100 per month, but withheld her passport and put her under strict psychological control. She was not allowed to talk to anyone outside of the house and was often threatened with physical violence. Her phone calls were monitored and her boss listened to every phone call back home to her mother. She worked under these conditions for two and a half years before she was rescued by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. She now live in the Dallas area and is fighting a deportation order from the United States government. 

This project is supported by Lexis Nexis

see more from this story