John came to the U.S. from the Philippines looking for a better life, but his search for success turned into a struggle to escape modern-day slavery.
John was a successful salesman in the Philippines with a master’s degree in Business Administration. He wanted to come to the United States to pursue a better life.
A friend told John about an agency that helps people like them become workers in California. To apply, they were required to pay a large application fee. In order to pay this hefty fee, John arranged a loan that used part of his mother’s ancestral land as collateral. With the loan secured, he applied and headed for America.
John worked hard every day at the various jobs including: being a desk clerk, driving shuttle buses and washing dishes. John knew it would take time to establish himself in a new career in the United States. He looked into filing an extension for his visa. Initially the agency that helped him come to the United States offered help in filing a visa extension. However, they soon stopped answering his calls.
John was terrified his visa would expire and that he would be deported. So he frantically searched the internet for companies who might help. An agency based in Kansas City, Missouri promised they would extend his visa.
The agency representatives charged John outrageous fees. They warned him to follow their instructions, or else he would be deported. The agency assigned John along with a group of four others to work in a hotel in Casper, Wyoming.
The Un-American Dream
In Casper, he lived in the hotel’s maintenance room and shared it with ten other people. The room had no air conditioning or heat. The bathroom they shared was small and didn’t have hot running water. John worked long and irregular hours. During his working hours, he was routinely exposed to toxic paint fumes. He developed insomnia, severe stress and high blood pressure.
He was not fairly paid. When he did get paid there was often a delay and he wasn’t paid for all of the hours he worked. John complained to the management of the hotel and to the agency who had placed him there. The agency would threaten him with the prospect of deportation. One day, he mustered the courage to leave.
Escaping Modern-Day Slavery
After John escaped, he spent three years traveling the country and staying with various friends. To get by, he took several survival jobs to make ends meet.
During a trip to New York City, a friend told him of a law firm who handled human trafficking cases. Although John had already sought help from five different lawyers, he persevered and tried again. Luckily, this law firm understood John’s situation and directed him to a resource that could actually help him find relief; Safe Horizon’s Anti-Trafficking Program (ATP).
Located in Brooklyn, ATP provides human trafficking victims from anywhere in the city with comprehensive, supportive resources including:
- Intensive case management
- Legal services
- Training, technical assistance, and education
- Counseling and Housing support
John was assigned an intensive case manager at ATP who helped him work through the emotional and psychological effects of being trafficked.
ATP also assigned John an attorney from ATP’s legal team who coordinated with our Immigration Law Project (ILP). ILP provides legal services to thousands of undocumented immigrant victims of crime and their families in New York City. Together, our ATP and ILP helped John file a green card application so he could become a permanent resident of the United States.
After receiving help from Safe Horizon, John felt inspired to help other victims of human trafficking. He joined ATP’s human trafficking survivor leadership group, Voices of Hope. John is now part of a supportive community and continues to empower others who were taken advantage of during their weakest moments.
He tells us that no amount of money could ever replace what Safe Horizon has done for his life and that he is now pursuing his true American dream.