the largest human trafficking case in u.s. history?

Got this info passed along to me from the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund... A group of Indian guestworkers are suing Signal International, LLC along with its co-conspirators and other entities for human trafficking and racketeering: Class action sought for worker abuse claims.

The workers were lured to the United States after Hurricane Katrina and subjected to abusive working conditions. This week, their lawyers filed for class certification to include hundreds of additional Indian guestworkers in the lawsuit. If class status is granted, the lawsuit could be the largest human trafficking case in U.S. history. From AALDEF's press release:
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), Louisiana Justice Institute (LJI) and the law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP filed the original proposed class action lawsuit on behalf of the seven individuals, who seek to represent a class of approximately 500 former guestworkers lured to work in the U.S. after Hurricane Katrina and subjected to racial and national origin discrimination, forced labor, and other abuse by Signal and its agents and co-Defendants, including labor recruiters Sachin Dewan and Michael Pol and immigration attorney Malvern Burnett. Today’s filing urges the court to certify the class.

Signal, a marine and fabrication company with shipyards in Mississippi, Texas and Alabama, is a subcontractor for several major multi-national companies. After Hurricane Katrina scattered its workforce, Signal retained its co-Defendants who used the U.S. government’s guestworker program to import employees to work as welders and pipefitters. Between 2004 and 2006, hundreds of Indian men paid Defendants as much as $20,000 each for travel, visa, recruitment and other fees after they were told it would lead to good jobs and permanent U.S. residency for themselves and their families.

However, when the men arrived at Signal in late 2006 and early 2007, they discovered that they wouldn’t receive the green cards as promised, but rather 10-month guestworker visas. Signal also forced them to pay $1,050 a month to live in overcrowded, unsanitary and racially segregated labor camps where as many as 24 men shared a trailer with only two toilets. When the guestworkers tried to find their own housing, Signal officials told them they would still have the rent deducted from their paychecks. Visitors were not allowed into the camps, which were enclosed by fences. Company employees who stood guard at the camps regularly searched the workers' belongings. Workers who complained about the conditions they faced were threatened with deportation.
Lured to America with the false promise of green cards, then forced to work and live in crowded, unsanitary conditions. Yup, sounds like human trafficking to me. To read the rest of AALDEF's press release go here: Indian Guestworkers Ask Louisiana Federal Court to Certify Largest Human Trafficking Civil Suit as Class Action. The class action complaint is available online here.

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