Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Hearing of trafficking class suit against recruiters starts

Alliance-Philippines (AJLPP)
Bantay - Los Angeles
Echo Park Community Coalition (EPCC)
Partido ng Manggagawa (Labor Party) - USA

Joint Press Release
December 4, 2012

Hearing of trafficking class suit against recruiters starts
Filipino community, Fil-Am groups: Justice to Filipino teachers!

Members of the Filipino community and different Filipino-American groups pledge support to the continuing struggle of Filipino migrant teachers as the hearing of a class suit they filed against their recruiters is about to start here in a Federal Court in Los Angeles. This groundbreaking case is the first time that the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) is being applied to a class and not individual victims. Further this is a landmark case as the same federal law is being applied to professional workers for the first time, up until now the law has only been applied to laborers particularly in the agriculture industry .

“We are in solidarity with all these teachers who continue to fight for justice. These oppressive recruiters and labor contractors who prey on the hopes and dreams of migrant workers must be punished to the full extent of the law,” asserted Arturo Garcia, West Coast Coordinator of Alliance-Philippines (AJLPP).

From 2007 to 2009, more than 300 teachers from the Philippines were recruited and deployed in different school districts in Louisiana to teach science, math and special education. After a selection process in the Philippines, the shady recruitment scheme required each teacher to pay an amount of more than $5,000. The recruiters allegedly made it appear that this is all that they will have to pay. However after receiving the initial payment, the recruiters demanded more and more for different kinds of fees and charges. Having sold their properties and borrowed money to cover for the initial excessive payment, the teachers cannot back out as the recruiters would not refund those fees. 

The recruiters would then threaten to give their slots to other applicants if additional payments are not made on time. In violation of both the laws of the Philippines and the state of Louisiana, and possibly of the visa laws of the United States, each teacher ended up paying an exorbitant amount of $16,000 and even more.

“UPI orchestrated a human trafficking scheme that systematically victimized hundreds of Filipino teachers and their families. Upon their arrival here in the US, these teachers were coerced to sign another set of onerous contracts that required them to pay even more. Despite all the threats and harassment by the UPI’s owner, the bravery of these teachers in standing for what is right is inspiring,” underscored Ian Seruelo, US Liaison Officer of the Partido ng Manggagawa (Labor Party-Philippines) who helped organized the teachers.
Principal defendants in this trafficking class suit are Los Angeles-based recruitment agency Universal Placement Incorporated (UPI) and its president-owner Lourdes “Lulu” Navarro, a resident of Glendale, CA. Other defendants are PARS International, UPI’s Philippine-based conduit; Emilio V. Villarba, brother of Lourdes who owns PARS; Hothello “Jack” Navarro, former husband of Lourdes and a director of UPI; and Robert Silverman, a California attorney and his law firm, Silverman & Associates, who are the legal facilitators of the fraudulent scheme. Employer school district and its representatives were also included as defendants for knowingly benefiting from the trafficking scheme.

“The exploitation of guest workers is an ongoing and growing problem here in the US. This class suit is a significant step in our advocacy for the protection of the rights of all migrant workers," added Jerry Esguerra of the Echo Park Community Coalition (EPCC).

The hearing for this class suit will begin tomorrow (December 5, 2012, 8:30 AM) and every weekday until December 14 in the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California in Los Angeles. Alliance-Philippines (AJLPP), Bantay - LA, Echo Park Community Coalition (EPCC) and the Partido ng Manggagawa (Labor Party) - USA encourage the Filipino-American community, especially those living in Los Angeles, to support these teachers by showing up in the hearings.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The human trafficking has been dismissed today dec.17.2012 against their LA-based recruiter

Promethean Planet


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