Harmanpreet Singh, 30, and Kulbir Kaur, 42, were indicted for conspiracy to commit forced labor, forced labor, alien harboring for financial gain, and document servitude. The acts were in connection with their gas station and convenience store where, from March 2018 to May 2021, they allegedly forced Singh’s cousin to work. The indictment has all the greatest hits of previous forced labor stories, with the confiscation of immigration documents, physical abuse, threats, and degrading living conditions. The couple also harbored their victim after his visa expired so they could keep up the scheme.
These forced labor stories keep piling up as examples of the banality of evil. From Boston pizza shop owners to Michigan blueberry farms, these cases of exploitation of foreign workers demonstrate the levels people will sink to for a slightly higher profit margin. There are people willing to steal lives and liberty for a few dollars and cents.
The couple indicted in the most recent case were operating a gas station in Virginia, where the Department of Justice (DOJ) also indicted a laundry business earlier this year for forced labor, including of a previously trafficked child. Often, the focus is rightfully on big businesses exploiting large numbers of workers with wage theft or wage suppression schemes. However, the small business abuses are also worthy of attention. Where there is less focus and lower stakes, some of the worst abuse is coming to light.
In April of 2023, Jesse James Moraes, 65, and Hugo Giovanni Moraes, 43, were indicted for forced labor in the operation of their restaurants in Woburn, Massachusetts. This father and son duo allegedly helped smuggle aliens from Brazil and then recruited them to work in their restaurant with promises of good pay and a better life. Then the exploitation allegedly began, with withholding of pay and threats of violence and deportation if they didn’t work long hours in difficult conditions. United States Attorney Rachael Rollins said, “This case is another stark example of the human trafficking that’s happening every single day in our country…”
While it is happening every single day, the indictments do not always follow. It makes one wonder just how deep the rabbit hole goes on modern slavery in our labor economy. With the catastrophe at the border, hundreds of thousands of vulnerable migrants have flooded into this slavery trap. In the recent indictment in Virginia we see that some slavers are bringing their own family members over and allegedly exploiting them. The New York Times has reported on labor traffickers targeting and sponsoring unaccompanied alien children then forcing them to work.
It is safe to say that there are far more forced labor victims than we know about, which is truly frightening, considering that the number of exploited alien workers, including children, that we do know about is staggering. Part of the reason for this is that our immigration system is overwhelmed with applicants and focused on rubber stamping applications while relying on the integrity of employers. Meanwhile, our border is wide open and the Biden Administration’s strategy for reducing the illegal numbers is to (illegally) parole tens of thousands of aliens into the United States monthly in a bit of accounting magic. It is axiomatic that this parole policy is rolling out the red carpet for unscrupulous employers to create thousands more trafficking victims. At some point this exploitation labor model, enabled by lax immigration enforcement, will lead to a reckoning. This type of evil always does.
JARED CULVER is a Legal Analyst for NumbersUSA
Updated: Sat, Sep 2nd 2023 @ 3:30am EDT