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From Colorado, Labor Trafficking News

August 02, 2019 (1 min read)

Sarah Tory, High Country News, July 29, 2019

"Phyllis Adkins, 65, had known William and Leonida Sackett for six years before she met the people who would later become their victims. Like the Sacketts, Adkins owned a farm in Rocky Ford, Colorado, a small, tight-knit community where neighbors are like family.

So when Leonida was able to help her brother, Esmeraldo Echon Jr., emigrate from the Philippines in 2011, it looked like a cause for celebration. A year later, Esmeraldo’s wife, Maribel, and their three sons joined him in Rocky Ford.

The Echons saw their arrival as the dawn of their American Dream. Instead, they found themselves trapped by their own relatives in a three-year nightmare of forced labor — until local residents like Adkins began suspecting that something was wrong.

Thanks in part to their testimonies, a federal jury awarded the Echons $330,000 last year in Colorado’s first civil human-trafficking trial. “If it hadn’t been for those community members (who spoke up), this case would not have happened,” said Jenifer Rodriguez, managing attorney for the migrant farm worker division at Colorado Legal Services, who represented the Echons.

... In 2014, Maribel Echon sought help from Colorado Legal Services, which filed a civil case for non-payment of wages. Later, Adkins and four other Rocky Ford residents testified on behalf of the Echons, helping secure a ruling in their favor. The case is under appeal, but Rodriguez believes it offers an important message for immigrant trafficking victims elsewhere: “There are people who will help you,” she said. “Justice can be served.” "