Eventually, Flor’s captors allowed her to walk out to a nearby church one Sunday. And “when I walked through the parking lot, I realized that I was free because that Sunday, to my surprise, no one was monitoring my movements. Nobody was there.” Apparently, even modern-day slave drivers like to take Sundays off. They’d probably assumed Flor was too beaten down to flee, but they had her number wrong. Unfortunately, Flor immediately encountered some number-based trouble of her own.
“I tried to make the phone call. But the operator answered in English, and as I said, I didn’t know what words in English. I didn’t even know U.S. money — you know, calling with dimes or anything like that. And I didn’t have any money with me, so I tried to make the phone call. It was Sunday, and not a lot of people were on the street. But to my surprise, I saw a walking person and asked him for help. I asked him to dial the number, he dialed the number, my co-worker answered and came and picked me up from the corner of that place.” And with that, she was free.
Justice At Last! Well, Sort Of …
The next day, Flor’s trafficker threatened her friend. Flor fled to San Diego, where she hid out until she received a knock at the door. At first, she thought it was her trafficker, come to take her back. It turned out to be the FBI. It seems members of a human trafficking task force had been watching the factory for a while. They busted the whole operation shortly after she escaped.
“So they brought me to Los Angeles and asked me to cooperate with them, because all my co-workers were in the detention center and my trafficker was free. My trafficker was blaming my co-worker who had helped me. My trafficker said she didn’t know me, and I had never worked at her place, and the person that brought me over was my friend, the one that helped me.”
Flor was terrified of the police, but she decided to cooperate, because seriously, fuck human traffickers. Her testimony helped put her captors away … sort of. This was in 2002, a time before human trafficking was well-known to U.S. law enforcement. “So that’s why my trafficker got a light sentence — only six months of house arrest, a fine of $75,000, and that’s it. She was judged as an ‘abusive employer’ rather than a trafficker, because back then, human trafficking was kind of a new topic for law enforcement, so they didn’t know how to judge my trafficker.”
Although honestly, that kind of thing still happens. In 2014, a Harvard couple was convicted of abusing and holding a Bolivian nanny against her will. They were fined $150,000. Once Flor’s trafficker finished her time on house arrest, she immediately went to Mexico to harass Flor’s family. “The last time I heard that she had contacted my family was in 2008, when she went to visit my mother, and give $20 to my mother, for my mother to call here as soon as she found out where I was. Later on, she went to my brother’s house and forced my brother, intimidated my brother, to give her my address in the United States.”
Being harassed after escape is also normal for people in Flor’s situation. Luckily, she had some connections by this point. She called her lawyer, who contacted the U.S. Attorney’s office, who found Flor’s former captor and told her to knock it off. Flor became an activist. She is now a U.S. citizen, and she currently works her butt off to stop anyone else from suffering the way she did. Her testimony was a critical part of passing a California state bill which forces companies to disclose exactly what they’re doing to keep slavery out of their supply chains.
Please note that the bill doesn’t actually keep slavery out of any company’s supply chain. It just means they’ve got to tell us how they’re trying to stop it. There’s still a long, long way to go to make sure the next pair of hot pants that Amazon Prime delivers to your door aren’t made by modern-day slaves. If you really want to avoid supporting slavery, your best bet is still to buy your hot pants secondhand, or better yet, abstain from pants altogether.
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