former sweatshop workers become u.s. citizens

This is a great story on a group of former enslaved sweatshop laborers who, exactly 13 years after winning their freedom, became sworn U.S. citizens this week: Thai slave laborers freed in El Monte become U.S. citizens.

The workers, from Thailand, made national headlines in 1995 when their sweatshop was discovered in El Monte, California. Enslaved behind razor wire and around-the-clock guards, more than 70 laborers were forced to work 18-hour days for what amounted to less than a dollar an hour.

Ultimately, law enforcement officers arrested eight operators of a Chinese Thai garment sweatshop in an early morning raid in August 1995 and freed 72 Thai immigrants, some of whom had been held captive for at least four years.

More than 40 of them gathered last Sunday to celebrate with the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, which successfully fought for a $4-million settlement from manufacturers and retailers for their exploitation and won an uphill battle to gain legal status for the workers.

It's been a long, hard, sometimes horrific journey for them to becoming Americans, but they made it. And hopefully, because of their plight and international attention it drew, fewer immigrants will have endure what they had to go through.

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