Human Trafficking Is An Elusive Target

Los Angeles (AP) — Florencia Molina’s personal hellhole was a dressmaking shop on the outskirts of Los Angeles. She worked there up to 17 hours a day, seven days a week, and lived there, too, without the option of showering or washing her clothes.

Other victims of American-style human trafficking have had very different venues for ordeals just as bad or worse — brothels in San Francisco, bars in New Jersey, slave-labor farm camps in Florida, a small-town tree-cutting business owned by a New Hampshire couple.

Molina was enticed to California by a woman back home in Mexico’s Puebla state, who promised a job and free accommodations.

‘I came to the United States with lots of dreams, but when I got here, my dreams were stolen,’ said Molina, 33, who left three children behind in Mexico.

On Jan. 1, 2002, she worked her first shift at the dressmaker’s, sewing roughly 200 party dresses over 12 hours.

Later, the shifts often stretched to 17 hours a day. Molina was locked into the shop at night — sleeping with a co-worker in a small storage room. The shop manager paid Molina roughly $100 a week, confiscated her identify documents, and told her she would be arrested if she went to the authorities.

‘For me, it was completely dark, without money, without English, no papers, nothing,’ Molina said in an interview. ‘The owner told me, ‘You can try to do whatever you want. Dogs in this country have more rights than you.'’

After working 40 days, Molina summoned up the nerve to flee, and soon encountered FBI agents who were investigating the dress shop. They sought her cooperation in prosecuting the owner, and Molina — after difficult deliberations — agreed to help.

‘It was really a hard decision,’ she said. ‘The owner had always told me I would pay the consequences — or my family in Mexico would suffer — if I went to the authorities. But I thought to myself, ‘I don’t want one more person to be in the situation I was in.'’

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