Federal agents recently arrested two men and a woman from Togo, alleging that they had smuggled at least 20 women and girls into the United States to work in hair-braiding salons in Newark and East Orange.
Apparently, the “employees” worked without pay and were housed by their employers.
Federal agents claim the illegal immigrants turned over their passports and other travel documents to prevent them from leaving.
A relative of one of the salon owners said, “They got everything they needed and it was better than Africa.” Investigators disagreed, saying the victims were modern-day slaves.
How did the salon owners get the women and girls into the country in the first place? Through a U.S. immigration lottery system that allocates 55,000 immigrant visas per year to countries with low immigration rates. Because many of the winners cannot afford the immigration fees and plane tickets, the visas end up on the black market, used with false identification to allow employers, such as the salon owners, to import laborers.
Final note: Human trafficking is a growing problem, and federal authorities are cracking down. That will help legitimate businesses that won’t rely on “free” illegal labor.