Marion, Ohio - Another suspect pleaded guilty to his role in a human-trafficking ring that took advantage of immigrant children and forced them into slave labor. 50-year-old Pablo Duran Ramirez Jr. is the fourth person to plead guilty in the case, which involved a number of children being forced to work on an egg farm.
According to court records, a labor company named Haba Corporate Services, owned by Ramirez, arranged for trafficked immigrants to work with Trillium Farms, where they were physically threatened and forced to live in horrible conditions.
Trillium reportedly paid Haba $6 million for the immigrant workers, who were promised that they would be provided with jobs and education when they got to the states. Some of the workers were as young as 14 years old.
According to prosecutors, Ramirez was aware that these workers were children and he also knew about the conditions and abuse that these children were exposed to. When the farm was eventually raided, federal agents found nearly 40 workers on the site.
As The Free Thought Project reported earlier this year, some of the workers at this farm were among 1,500 immigrant children that were "lost" by US border officials.
During a subcomitte hearing on the investigation, Senator Rob Portman said that US agencies were responsible for these children ending up in the hands of traffickers.
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“It is intolerable that human trafficking — modern-day slavery — could occur in our own backyard. What makes the Marion cases even more alarming is that a U.S. government agency was responsible for delivering some of the victims into the hands of their abusers,” Portman said after learning of the case.
“Whatever your views on immigration policy, everyone can agree that the administration has a responsibility to ensure the safety of the migrant kids that have entered government custody until their immigration court date,” Portman said.
In 2016, an AP investigation found that more than two dozen children had been sent to homes where they were sexually assaulted, starved or forced to work for little or no pay.
Child welfare lawyers from Ohio who testified at the hearing said that increased persecution from immigration enforcers has made family members of unaccompanied children who enter the US afraid or unable to take custody.
One of these attorneys, Jessica A. Ramos, suggested that the children be appointed lawyers, in addition to having the opportunity to reunite with family members in the US without fear of deportation.
“Prioritization of enforcement over humanity is endangering children. My clients, despite having been born in another country and not speaking English, are still, above all things, children. Children who deserve to be safe from harm. Children who deserve a chance, just like our own children,” Ramos said.
There have been similar concerns in Europe as well—in 2016, it was reported that more than 10,000 immigrant children may have disappeared after arriving in Europe over a two-year time period.