Human Trafficking Right in a US Neighborhood

Wisconsin MDs Forced Woman to Work as Domestic Servant for 19 Years

The State Department has just released its 2009 Trafficking in Persons Report on 175 nations. It is the most comprehensive worldwide report on the efforts of governments to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons. The stories are deplorable, the numbers are staggering:

Victims of Trafficking

(UN International Labor Organization Estimates)

  • 12.3 million adults and children at any time, in forced labor and sexual servitude
  • 1.39 million victims of sex trafficking, both national and transnational
  • 56% of forced labor victims are women and girls

State says that “The past year, marked by the onset of a global financial crisis, has raised the specter of increased human trafficking around the world. Two concurrent trends – a shrinking global demand for labor and a growing supply of workers willing to take ever greater risks for economic opportunities – seem a recipe for greater forced labor of migrant workers and commercial sexual exploitation of women in prostitution.”

In some places of the world, people have been living a life of daily economic crisis for years that working overseas, despite the risks, would seem like winning the “lottery.”

Earlier this month, DOJ reported that Jefferson Calimlim Sr. and his wife, Elnora Calimlim, both medical doctors in Milwaukee, Wisconsin were each re-sentenced to 72 months in prison for forcing a woman, Erma Martinez, to work as their domestic servant and illegally harboring her for 19 years in their Brookfield, Wisconsin residence.

According to evidence presented at trial, Jefferson Calimlim Sr. and his wife recruited and brought the victim from the Philippines to the U.S. in 1985 when she was 19 years old. In September 2004, federal law enforcement officers responding to a tip removed the victim, then age 38, from the Calimlim’s residence through the execution of a federal search warrant. The victim testified that for 19 years she was hidden in the Calimlim’s home, forbidden from going outside and told that she would be arrested, imprisoned and deported if she was discovered.

Almost 20 years of one’s life gone – just like that.

If you read the victim’s story here, you may find that she was a victim twice over; victimized first by her employers in the United States, and second by the relatives in her home country who depended on her for everything. There is judicial remedy for the first; there is none for the second.

Her salary paid for the education of all her younger siblings, from costumes in the Christmas pageants to college computer programs. The dutiful daughter paid for her father’s blood pressure medicine and her mother’s tumor operation and for plots of land. She paid for a water buffalo to pull a plow on the farm, and later a Honda tractor. Martinez’s mother gave her choices about where her money went: Did she want her brothers studying to be police officers or nurses? Did she want to buy dresses for her nieces for Christmas? And almost every letter came with a request for more.“Your father, Glen and Nonoy Kee are also asking that you buy them a watch and a set of necklace, ring and earrings for me. My earrings have lost its shine and some of the stones have come off.”

According to the 2009 TIP Report, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) certified 286 foreign adult victims in FY 2008, and issued eligibility letters to 31 foreign minors. Forty-five percent of the 286 certified adult trafficking victims were male, a notable increase from the 30 percent adult male trafficking victims certified in FY 2007 and the six percent adult male trafficking victims certified in FY 2006. Certified victims came from 40 countries. Primary countries of origin were Mexico (66), Thailand (56), Philippines (46), Korea (12), and China (8). Certification and Eligibility Letters allow human trafficking survivors to access services and benefits, comparable to assistance provided by the United States to refugees.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provides two principal types of immigration relief authorized by the TVPA: (1) continued presence (CP) to human trafficking victims who are potential witnesses during investigation or prosecution, and (2) T non-immigrant status or “T-visas,” a special self-petitioned visa category for trafficking victims. In FY 2008, DHS/ICE’s Law Enforcement Parole Branch approved 225 requests for CP and 101 requests for extensions of existing CPs. DHS U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued 247 T-visas to foreign survivors of human trafficking identified in the United States and 171 T-visas to their immediate family members. As part of the assistance provided under the TVPA, the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration funds the Return, Reintegration, and Family Reunification Program for Victims of Trafficking. In calendar year 2008, the program assisted 105 cases. Of these cases, two trafficking victims elected to return to their country of origin, and 103 family members were reunited with trafficking survivors in the United States. Since its inception in 2005, the program has assisted around 250 people from 35 countries.