A group of Guatemalan boys in U.S. custody were illegally used as slaves at Trillium Farms egg production. The Associated Press reported August 24, that the youth came to the U.S., seeking shelter and were granted it. But they were fraudulently taken from U.S. custody and forced into slavery at the Ohio egg farms. Eight teens and two men in their twenties were kidnapped by unscrupulous head-hunters contracting with Trillim Farms.
U.S. immigration policy says unaccompanied minors trying to escape dangers in their homeland may not be refused help. Kids are placed in HHS care with sponsors till their case can be resolved. Those sponsors may be living in the U.S. illegally themselves. Many refugees are fleeing dangers in Central America. They were easy targets for “coyotes” (drivers paid to collect illegal aliens and put them to work in underground operations, like farms. Allegedly, the plot was masterminded by Arodolo Rigoberto Castillo-Serrano, 33, a Guatemalan who has lived and worked in the U.S. illegally for most of the past decade.
He had coyotes pose as friends and family took custody of the youth, promising to shelter and legal help with immigration. Fake paperwork was submitted to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. Instead of protection, they were worked as slaves, housed in rundown trailers and made to turn over earnings in exchange for passage to the U.S. However those fees were already paid many times over. Indictment charges state that Castillo-Serrano often made victims’ family members sign over deeds to their Guatemalan property as payment for transporting boys. Families thought they were giving their kids a better life. They were promised education which children never received.
Prosecutors say seven of the teen victims crossed the Texas-Mexico border last year during a time when states were dealing with an immigration crisis. Thousands of unaccompanied minors from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador flooded the U.S. David Leopold, an immigration attorney says people took advantage of the law that protects unaccompanied children and the overwhelmed system.
Boys were threatened with violence if they complained or disobeyed. Vans secreted them to work before dawn and returned them after dark. They were put to work at Trillium Farms, which used a contractor to recruit workers. Trillium Farms, with a 2-billion annual egg output, claimed no knowledge of the contractor bringing illegal aliens to work and hasn’t been charged.
The boys were rescued after families began talking to authorities in 2013. Castillo-Serrano and three others face charges of forced-labor conspiracy, lying to the government, encouraging illegal U.S. entry and harboring immigrants illegally. Witnesses say the 10 victims found were just a few of the many others smuggled into U.S. from Guatemala through Castillo-Serrano’s scheme. He’s scheduled to change his not-guilty plea during a Cleveland federal court in Cleveland, it’s thought he’ll take a plea bargain.
An HHS spokesman said case managers assigned to unaccompanied children must verify a potential sponsor’s identity and relationship before releasing the child. Background checks and fingerprinting is supposed to be done. Officials haven’t said what will happen to the teens other than they will be cared for.