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29 Jul 2022

Maria Perez, USA Today

USA: Court testimony reveals farm labour traffickers bribed Georgia government employees to pass housing inspections

"Farm labor traffickers bribed Georgia government employees, federal agent testifies," 21 Jul 2022

A federal agent has testified that Georgia labor officials were bribed by an alleged criminal organization accused of subjecting farmworkers to forced labor and degrading living conditions, including housing dozens in a single-room trailer without safe drinking or cooking water.

... The special agent provided the previously unreported testimony during a sentencing hearing linked to Operation Blooming Onion, one of the largest federal cases ever prosecuted in the U.S. involving labor trafficking of guest farmworkers.

... Advocates have long warned that guest farmworkers can be reluctant to speak out about substandard housing or other abuse: If they get fired or quit, they generally lose their visa and sometimes, their best chance to repay debt they may have gotten into to get the U.S. job.

... The largest indictment tied to the Blooming Onion investigation, which charged two dozen people with conspiring to engage in forced labor and related crimes, said defendants required workers to pay illegal fees to obtain jobs, made them work for little or no pay and threatened them. It also says conspirators required foreign workers to live in “crowded, unsanitary, and degrading living conditions."