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Nena Ruiz’s Story of Human Trafficking

This is one of three first-person accounts written by survivors of human trafficking. The others, in addition to background concerning the mission, might be discovered right here.


I come from a household of academics: father, husband, sisters, and daughter. I taught for 32 years at an elementary college within the Philippines. Somehow, that added to the disgrace I felt for being a survivor of trafficking. I not solely anxious about what my household would assume, however my lots of of college students as effectively. I assumed that everybody would lose respect for us.

When I retired from educating at 55, I went into enterprise with a neighbor, and so they disappeared with my financial savings. I used to be devastated, however a cousin by means of a wedding got here to my rescue—or so I assumed—when she instructed me her boss was on the lookout for somebody to accompany her aged mom to the United States and take care of her there.

I met with the girl, and she or he supplied me $400 monthly, almost 3 times what I might make as a trainer. She added that she would petition for a particular form of visa so my household might come to the U.S. too. I used to be overwhelmed with happiness and gratitude. I assumed this was the reply to my prayers.

The first signal that one thing was improper was on the airport. The Philippines Airlines personnel withheld my ticket as a result of the girl I used to be alleged to be caring for was not with me. I questioned why the mom had traveled to the U.S. forward of me, so I known as my boss to let her know I couldn’t decide up my ticket alone. She despatched her mom again to Manila, and we flew to the U.S. collectively. In all of my pleasure, I didn’t ask any questions concerning the strangeness of the state of affairs. I trusted my new boss.

In San Francisco, my boss’s youthful sister met us on the airport, and we fortunately ate dinner at her home. Before going to mattress, the sister instructed me, “My mom stays with me. My sister used my mom so that she could get you to come here to be her domestic helper. Tomorrow, I will arrange your flight to Culver City.”

I used to be so shocked that I couldn’t say a factor. My head was spinning from the confusion.

I arrived in Los Angeles, and my boss took me to her apartment in a gated neighborhood. She was a really distinguished, influential Filipina lady, and her American husband was the vp of authorized affairs of Sony Pictures in Los Angeles. Before we went inside, she requested for my passport. She mentioned she was going to increase my visa and petition for my household to return to America to be with me. Again, my happiness overwhelmed me, and I believed her.

Within every week, I had a “daily work schedule,” taped to the wall within the kitchen. It ran from 5 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., which was incorrect, since I additionally needed to convey the canine exterior within the center of the night time. I needed to take care of the canine along with cooking, cleansing, washing, vacuuming, ironing, dusting, hemming garments, and sustaining the crops. Every month, I cooked a big pot of a particular Filipino dish of floor beef, rice, tomato, carrots, and broccoli for the canine, however was fed leftover meals that had been within the fridge for days. I needed to brush the canine’ tooth, clear their ears, and provides them nutritional vitamins every day, however I needed to sleep on a canine mattress in the lounge, regardless that the home was massive, with a visitor room and music room. I saved my belongings within the laundry room.

I felt that my boss disliked every little thing I did, regardless of how arduous I attempted. She instructed me I used to be ignorant and brainless, and, as I later alleged in civil courtroom, she hit me and pulled my hair, and left me with bruises and cuts.

I used to be scared of her, but in addition ashamed that this was taking place to me, an aged lady who deserved respect. I wished to flee, however had no thought the place to show. And every kind of fears saved me paralyzed. My visa expired, and after that, I used to be afraid of being arrested. My boss additionally instructed me I used to be accountable for paying again my airfare and that of her mom, since I couldn’t have come to America with out her. She additionally deducted my on a regular basis gadgets from my wage, like shampoo and lotion. As I claimed in my lawsuit, I used to be paid a complete of about $300 for my complete time with the household. Even if I made it again to the Philippines, I didn’t understand how I might pay again my loans there.

I attempted to inform folks about my state of affairs. I wrote notes to my boss’s husband. He appeared involved concerning the bodily abuse. But when the spouse discovered we have been talking about it, issues solely appeared to worsen. When the boss’s mom and brother came over, I instructed them too, however they gave me a prayer guide and instructed me to wish. I believe they have been afraid of her too. I known as a buddy in Chicago, however she herself was undocumented and afraid to get entangled.

In the top, the neighbors have been those to assist. From once I took the canine out, I made mates with the 13-year-old lady subsequent door. I couldn’t preserve from crying once we have been collectively, and ultimately instructed her what was improper. She instructed her mom. Plus, her dad and mom typically sat on the swimming pool near our apartment, and heard the yelling and hitting by means of the partitions. Her mom requested my boss if I might come assist when their cleansing particular person didn’t present up, and my boss, attempting to be a decent neighbor, let me go. We have been capable of discuss, and the mom inspired me to flee. But I wasn’t prepared. I used to be nonetheless too scared.

This went on for a yr. I not often spoke with my household on the cellphone, and I didn’t inform them how dangerous it was, as a result of it felt ineffective. What might they do from so distant, given all of the money owed we had? Because I didn’t have an outlet for expression, I’d write issues down on paper. At the top of every day, I’d write the precise date and listing the issues my boss mentioned and did to me. I additionally saved good observe of the deductions produced from my paycheck. This meticulous recordkeeping was a option to relieve my feelings for the day. But it was additionally the factor that constructed my case towards the household.

Finally someday, we obtained a knock on the door. It was the police. One of the neighbors had known as and mentioned I used to be being hit. He requested if I wished to speak with him alone exterior, however I used to be silent and solely checked out my boss. Even although my boss handled me cruelly, she was nonetheless my boss, and since of my tradition, I felt I ought to obey her. Also, I had no papers, and didn’t need to be put in immigrant detention. Finally I mentioned, “Sir, maybe some other time. Please give me your business card.”

He left, and I used to be in hassle after that. I keep in mind the husband and spouse berating me. It felt like an interrogation. The subsequent day, my boss took the enterprise card away, and instructed me they’d organized my flight again to the Philippines. I felt pressured to signal a bit of paper saying I wouldn’t say something about what had occurred. I refused. I went to the neighbors for assist, and so they known as the police. The officers accompanied me again to my boss’s so I might get my issues. It appeared like my boss wished to maintain my passport, however they instructed her to offer it to me. I slept on the neighbors’ home that night time. The complete expertise was a blur.

The subsequent day, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which now falls below the Department of Homeland Security, confirmed up. My boss had known as immigration enforcement, attempting to get me deported earlier than I revealed the reality. I used to be scared once I opened the door. They took me to a authorities constructing for a number of hours. I waited and waited, as exhaustion swept over me. Finally, a girl from SIPA, Search to Involve Pilipino Americans, took me to the Pilipino Workers Center (PWC), a neighborhood Filipino organizing group. My life then modified.

PWC helped me with housing, and securing meals stamps and entry to a health care provider. They gave me a bus cross so I might discover ways to navigate town. Another group known as CAST (Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking) helped me discover a lawyer, entry to schooling, and transition to unbiased residing. I grew to become a licensed nursing assistant.

My civil case was filed one yr after I left my employers, and went to trial one other yr later. The trial expertise was scary and aggravating, and troublesome to juggle with my job. My employers denied all the costs, however ultimately, I received and was awarded financial compensation. I keep in mind one of the jurors hugged me exterior the courtroom afterwards and mentioned, “I believed you 100 percent.” I spotted I had been given justice.

One yr later, there was additionally a felony case. My boss pleaded responsible to a cost of compelled labor and needed to serve three years in jail. Her husband pleaded responsible to alien harboring, and needed to do neighborhood service and pay a effective. At final, I might work with out concern.

Fighting my trafficking case made me a stronger particular person. Even when my rights have been violated, on the job I had the instruments and the neighborhood to struggle for them—and for these of the numerous undocumented home employees who can’t communicate out.

At 74 years outdated, I’m again within the Philippines, and at last retired. I’ve remained energetic with PWC, to assist elevate consciousness of employees’ rights in California and points of human trafficking. With the compensation cash, I’ve been capable of assist my neighborhood right here at house, particularly in supporting a number of members of the family. Many of them, and my former college students, know my story as a survivor of trafficking. Sharing it makes me really feel proud. Many of my former college students have inspired me to maintain talking out.

All of this provides me pleasure and success. But, it nonetheless doesn’t examine to the happiest second of my life. In 2013, years after I left the Philippines, I used to be lastly reunited with my husband, my kids, and my grandchildren.


This story was produced with help from the National Domestic Workers Alliance and its Beyond Survival marketing campaign.



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About Dexter H. Stewart

Dexter H. Stewartwrites for Business News and Interviews With Expert Section in AmericaRichest.

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