It Takes a Heap of Immigration Law Violations to Keep a Slave at Home

By David North on June 10, 2011

You would not know it from reading a prominent news story in today's Washington Post, but you need to break the immigration law repeatedly if you are going to keep an alien worker as your household slave.

And it helps your slimy cause if the immigration authorities fail to notice violation after violation.

The story is about a poor Filipina, who was, as the indictment put it, "uneducated, illiterate, impoverished, and in need of employment". In 1999 she was lured to the United States by a middle class couple from Upper Marlborough, Md., Alfred and Gloria Edwards, who had promised her employment to support her eight children in the Philippines. Instead they "held the woman in domestic servitude for a decade, paying her minimal or no wages for working long days" according to the Post.

Mr. and Mrs. Edwards kept her in servitude with threats of violence and other means, as spelled out in the detailed 15-page federal indictment which can be read on PACER, the federal courts electronic records system, as Maryland case 8:11-cr-00316-AW Document 1.

Most of that document, and virtually all of the Post story deals with the terrible life "T.E" lived, and how she was abused by her employers; she is now in a "safe place", according to the U.S. attorney's office. My assumption is that she now has, appropriately, either a nonimmigrant T visa (for victims of trafficking) or perhaps a nonimmigrant U visa (for other crime victims), but neither the indictment nor the Post mentions her current visa status.

In order to glean information on the extent of the immigration law violations in the case you need to look at the indictment, and then read between the lines. Indictments are fact-filled, plodding documents fashioned to secure a conviction on the charges chosen by the prosecutors; the main emphasis in this one is, understandably, on a "forced labor conspiracy." It is, in formal terms, a document approved by a federal grand jury.

The immigration-related violations included at least these:

1. The couple fabricated a story for T.E. to use when she entered the U.S. initially on a B-1 visa; that she would be going to work as a nanny for a co-conspirator, when she was coming to Upper Marlborough to be a domestic servant. (No one explained why the nanny story would be helpful on getting through Customs, but apparently it worked.)

2. They also paid a co-conspirator $5,000 to file phony documents for T.E. and to accompany her from the Philippines.

3. The couple created a phony marriage with an unnamed male when her B-1 visa was running out; T.E. never lived with the man, and he (apparently) reneged on going to an immigration hearing to help T.E. get a green card, so the couple caused a divorce. Though the indictment does not use the term, the couple thus thrust T.E. into bigamy, because she had a husband back in the Philippines. At this point, it is safe to assume, that T.E. had lapsed into illegal status and DHS did nothing about the status or her underlying servitude.

4. The couple, who were persistent, if nothing else, then forced T.E. into yet another bigamous phony marriage, this time with Alfred Edward's brother, who is described as suffering from "dementia, diabetes, and related conditions", and who was, at least from time to time, incontinent. This fraudulent marriage led, in fact, to a green card which on or about August 16, 2005, the couple confiscated, according to the indictment.

Apparently USCIS did not, at the time, see through this obviously lopsided marriage.

5. And then there is my favorite, one of the five formal charges, "(Document Servitude)" (bolding in the original); Gloria and Alfred Edwards are said to have "attempted to and did knowingly conceal, remove, confiscate, and possess the actual and purported passport and immigration documents of T.E. in the course of a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1589 . . ."

The couple had taken both her passport and her green card and told her that she would be deported as an illegal alien if she went to the authorities.

In September 2009, T.E. successfully ran away from the Edwards family, and now, nearly two years later (and 12 years after her arrival in the U.S.) the matter is now in court.