This week, a case began in federal court against a couple in Omaha, Nebraska, who have been charged with conspiracy to commit peonage, human trafficking and document servitude. According to the33tv.com, Edward and Amphayvanh Alstatt allegedly created a scheme to bring immigrants to the United States and extort them as indentured servants.
It is alleged that Amphayvanh Alstatt went to Laos to find people who wanted to immigrate to the US. Once there, she forced the would-be immigrants to pay her large sums of money to help them get visas after they were chosen for the Diversity Visa Lottery. After the immigrants came to the US, the Alstatts gave them places to live and jobs but required that the immigrants hand over their immigration documents. The Alstatts then opened joint bank accounts with the immigrants and told them that they would have to pay $25,000 to get their immigration documents back. The Alstatts allegedly threatened to return the immigrants to Laos if they refused to pay.
The Alstatt's purported immigrant extortion ring was foiled after one of the Laotian immigrants filed a police report in 2008. After that, federal authorities began an undercover investigation that culminated in a raid of the Alstatt's home. This raid uncovered hundreds of sets of immigration documents and a collection of blank Laotian government documents that could be used to make forgeries. If convicted, the Alstatts will face lengthy prison sentences. Also it is likely that Amphayvanh Alstatt, who is a Legal Permanent Resident (LPR), will face deportation.
The Alstatt case is especially noteworthy because it highlights how widespread the problem of human trafficking is. Even in the middle of the United States, human trafficking remains alive and well. In its annual report on human trafficking, the US State Department noted that "the United States is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor, debt bondage, document servitude, and sex trafficking." The report recommends that the US immigration officials be better trained at determining which visas are being used most often for trafficking and emphasized that educating the most at risk immigrants of their rights could help reduce the amount of human trafficking in the US.
At the Hacking Immigration Law, we are dedicated to giving immigrants a chance to take part in the American Dream. One of the ways that we do this is by informing immigrants of the rights and freedoms they enjoy in this country. Our educational website is designed to do just that. In addition, if you have a question about your rights as an immigrant or if you would like to schedule immigration law specialist Jim Hacking for a free immigrant rights speaking engagement, contact the Hacking Immigration Law at (314) 961-8200 or by completing the online contact information form.