A Commendable Twist in a Labor-Trafficking Penalty

By David North on March 22, 2018

It was an otherwise predictable ICE press release headlined: "2 illegal aliens from India each sentenced in Nebraska to a year in federal prison for labor trafficking, harboring illegal alien".

There is a Super 8 motel in a small town, Kimball, Neb. (population 2,400). It was operated by Vishnubhai and Leelabahen Chaudhari, presumably husband and wife. It is a modest, two-star motel with rates starting at $41.99 a night.

Another Indian male, M.C. in the court documents, is a nephew of Mrs. Chaudhari; he was caught illegally crossing the U.S./Mexico border. His aunt bailed him out for $30,000 and paid his bus fare to Kimball. The couple then forced him to work at the motel, generally in cleaning and maintenance functions, did not pay him or even feed him much, and threatened him if he should even think about leaving the motel. On at least one occasion, Chaudhari slapped him for not cleaning a bathtub to her satisfaction.

It was another one of the instances in which middle-class migrants from a given country exploit a later arrival from the same country — in this case, a relative — and extort long hours of labor from the new arrival without pay. .

So far, all very grim, but predictable.

But there are also two noteworthy elements, one of journalistic interest and the other a policy matter.

First, how did M.C. get away from his evil relatives? The plea agreement, laconic as these documents often are, had only this to say:

M.C. eventually escaped with the help of a motel guest and local law enforcement.

Who was the Good Samaritan, visiting this small town in the middle of the country, and how did that person discover the problem, and help solve it? What was the role of the police? Did the escape take place in the dark of night?

And, for that matter, what will ICE do, or what has it done, with the victim who is, after all, still an illegal alien unless he has been granted a T visa for his status? (T visas are nonimmigrant visas for trafficking victims that can, under the right set of circumstances, be converted to green cards.)

Second, and much more important, the couple's sentences included a year in prison for each, which might be expected, but also they agreed to a "stipulated judicial order of removal to India after they complete their prison sentences".

All too often federal prosecutors of aliens fail to extract such an agreement, leaving the question of the deportation or not up to the Department of Homeland Security.

The two, who pleaded guilty to the trafficking charges, also agreed to pay M.C. $40,000, which is a lot more than he could have saved had they treated him decently and paid him what was owed. If M.C. gets a green card out of this and $40,000 he may wind up in comparative clover while the evil relatives are first jailed and later deported.

Sounds like the federal prosecutors on the case did an excellent job. They were Frederick D. Franklin, of the U.S. attorney's office on Dodge Street in Omaha; Olimpia Michel, of the DoJ's Civil Rights Division in Washington; and her DoJ colleague Shan P. Patel.