FRONTLINE & the IRP Investigate the Hidden World of Labor Trafficking in America
Trafficked in America
Tuesday, April 24, 2018, at 10 p.m. ET / 9 p.m. CT on PBS & online
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For six years, FRONTLINE and the Investigative Reporting Program at U.C. Berkeley have been reporting on the exploitation and sexual abuse of immigrant workers in America — from female farmworkers, to night shift janitors.
Trafficked in America, premiering Tuesday, April 24, on PBS, investigates how teenagers from Central America were smuggled into the U.S. by traffickers who promised them jobs and a better life — only to force them to live and work in virtual slavery to pay off their debt.
It’s a crime that hides in plain sight, according to experts interviewed by FRONTLINE: “In our own country, we have, today, a lot of victims of human trafficking that are invisible to our own eyes,” says immigration lawyer Sonia Parras. “And let’s not forget that some of them are kids … they’re vulnerable and easy to victimize, and they’re alone.”
Trafficked in America exposes a criminal network that exploited undocumented minors, the companies who profited from their forced labor, and how U.S. government policies and practices helped to deliver some teens directly to their traffickers.
“We’ve got these kids. They’re here. They’re living on our soil and for us to just, you know, assume someone else is gonna take care of them and throw them to the wolves, which is what HHS was doing, is flat out wrong,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), whose bipartisan committee investigates the failures of the government’s handling of unaccompanied minors, tells FRONTLINE. “I don’t care what you think about immigration policy. It’s wrong.”
Produced by Daffodil Altan and Andrés Cediel, with Altan as correspondent, the documentary shines new light on a major labor trafficking case in which Guatemalan teens were forced by a third party contractor to work against their will at Trillium Farms in Ohio.
Through the lens of the Trillium Farms case, the investigative team presents a rare look inside the reality of labor trafficking in America. Altan and Cediel track down the accused mastermind of the scheme, Pablo Duran, Sr., who had a multi-million dollar contract with Trillium Farms to supply laborers. Duran eluded U.S. authorities, and fled to Mexico. The producers meet with him there for his first on-camera interview, in which he insists he had no knowledge that any of his laborers were minors, and that all his accusers are lying. Earlier this year Pablo Duran, Sr. was detained by U.S. authorities when he tried to return to the United States. He is currently in federal custody facing charges of forced labor in Ohio.
J.T. Dean, Trillium’s Vice President, also speaks out for the first time on camera about the case. He says the company had no knowledge of the trafficked teenagers from Guatemala working at their plants: “It did occur under my watch, but we did not know this and we didn’t see it,” Dean says. Aware now that labor trafficking is widespread, Dean says that the company has employed experts to help them develop and enforce policies to guard against labor trafficking in their egg facilities.
But in their reporting, Altan and Cediel uncovered other accounts of potential labor trafficking beyond the egg production industry, including at plants in Iowa.
“People need to be conscious of the people who serve them food and clear their tables,” former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Steve Dettlebach, who originally brought the prosecutions in the egg farm case, says. “They need to be conscious when they are driving down the freeway in farmland. They need to pay attention to the workers that all too often are treated as anonymous faceless people… we need to open our eyes to the fact that some of them are caught in these horrible situations and we need to help them.”
Trafficked in America premieres Tuesday, April 24, at 10/9c on PBS and online at pbs.org/frontline.
Trafficked in America is a FRONTLINE production with Investigative Studios in association with the Investigative Reporting Program at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. The directors, producers and writers are Andrés Cediel and Daffodil Altan. The executive producers for Investigative Studios are Lowell Bergman and John Temple. The executive producer of FRONTLINE is Raney Aronson-Rath.
FRONTLINE, U.S. television’s longest running investigative documentary series, explores the issues of our times through powerful storytelling. FRONTLINE has won every major journalism and broadcasting award, including 89 Emmy Awards and 20 Peabody Awards. Visit pbs.org/frontline and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr and Google+ to learn more. FRONTLINE is produced by WGBH Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS. Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional funding is provided by the Abrams Foundation, the Park Foundation, the John and Helen Glessner Family Trust and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation. Major support for FRONTLINE and for Trafficked in America is provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional support for this program is provided by the International Documentary Association and The Ford Foundation.
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