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Friday, July 24, 2009

Peruvian Woman Files Suit In S.F. District Court, Alleges Human Trafficking and Forced Labor

Posted By on Fri, Jul 24, 2009 at 1:15 PM

Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum
Meanwhile, in Walnut Creek...

Peruvian citizen Zoraida Pena Canal filed suit in federal district court this week, alleging she was trafficked into two years of forced labor as a nanny, cook, and household servant by a Peruvian-born U.S. citizen and the citizen's mother at a Walnut Creek home and apartment.

The defendant, Mabelle De La Rosa Dann, is already awaiting trial for charges of visa fraud, forced labor, and harboring an illegal alien for private financial gain, according to the suit. The suit alleges Dann's mother, Teresa Vittet De La Rosa, was complicit in what amounted to enslaving Canal, who worked for two years without pay to settle an ever-increasing "fictitious" debt -- with extremely limited access to the outside world.

Robert Uy is the staff attorney of the Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, which represents  trafficking victims. He told SF Weekly that while sex trafficking grabs the most headlines, cases of domestic servitude are much more common. Uy says that, more often than not, the forced labor is perpetrated by people originally from the same country as the person they enslave, who offer a domestic servant greater wages and opportunities if they move to the United States. Those conditions then turn out to be lies once the servant arrives.   


As chronicled in the lawsuit, Canal worked as a nanny for Dann's sister in Peru, when Dann offered her $600 a month plus room and board for working "regular hours," five days a week as a nanny for Dann's children in Walnut Creek. Dann made many of the arrangements for Canal to travel to the United States in 2006.

But once here, Dann is alleged to have never paid Canal for her work as a cook, maid, and nanny for 15 hours a day, adding up to more than 100 hours a week. Dann told Canal she would eventually be compensated after paying off an ever-increasing fictitious debt of at least $13,000. She only received money once: $100 for a Christmas "gift" from Dann.

Dann seized Canal's visa, passport, and Peruvian ID card upon Canal's arrival in the United States, and told Canal she was illegal here and had no rights to complain. The two defendants eventually severed all of Canal's communication with family and friends in Peru; Vittet De La Rosa allegedly told Canal's family members she didn't know where Canal was. Dann barred Canal from watching TV, and even destroyed the radio Canal listened to.

Canal had to sleep on a foam mattress on the apartment's living room floor, while everyone else got a bed. While Canal cooked all the family's meals, Dann rationed out eggs, bread and fruit that Canal could eat. In addition to cleaning the family's residence, Canal had to clean houses that Dann's real estate business was trying to sell.   

Canal is suing for unpaid wages and damages for trafficking, involuntary servitude, a number of labor violations, and infliction of emotional distress. She is represented by San Francisco attorneys from Orrick, Herrington, & Sutcliffe, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, and La Raza Centro Legal.  

H/T   |   Courthouse News

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