Spotlight starts to shine on modern-day slavery…

Click here to download the museum’s accompanying PDF booklet on the history and evolution of slavery in Florida agriculture. Also, click here for a link to a great video about the museum.

As Monday’s ceremony at the State Department nears, the CIW slavery museum (pictured on right — complete with new graphic wrap — at a truckstop somewhere in North Carolina) makes its way up the coast… and the press starts to take notice!

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to release the State Department’s annual “Trafficking in Persons” (TIP) report in Washington, DC, the “most comprehensive worldwide report on the efforts of governments to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons, a modern form of slavery,” according to the State Department press release issued yesterday for Monday’s event.

But this year’s ceremony will be different. For the first time in the ten-year history of the report, the United States itself will be included in the rankings. From the release:

“To highlight the first-ever U.S. ranking, the Department will host the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Modern Slavery Museum, which will be available for free tours to the public from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Monday, June 14 at the C Street entrance.” read more

Of course, this year’s report is different for one other important reason, as well. From the Ft. Myers News-Press, “Immokalee anti-trafficking hero gets honor for fighting slavery,” (6/11/10):

“For almost 20 years, Laura Germino has spent her days doing a job most would find unimaginable in 21st-century Florida: fighting slavery.

Germino, 47, has listened to bleeding escapees tell of being chained and beaten. She has traveled thousands of miles on rutted roads to isolated farm fields. She has sweltered in dented labor camp trailers, gathering workers’ stories.

And then she has put on business skirts and strode into federal courthouses to help the government prosecute captors of those exploited.

For that work, Germino has been named a 2010 “Anti-Trafficking Hero” by the U.S. State Department. She’s the first U.S. recipient of the recognition.”

The News-Press story includes an excerpt from “The Slave Next Door,” a book on modern-day slavery that is particularly helpful for putting Laura’s — and the CIW’s — work in an appropriate historical context:

In 1997, Miguel Flores and Sebastian Gomez were sentenced to 15 years each in federal prison on slavery, extortion and firearms charges. They had a workforce of more than 400 men and women in Florida and South Carolina, harvesting vegetables and citrus. They were forced to work 10-12 hour days, six days per week, for as little as $20 per week, under armed guard. Those who attempted to escape were assaulted, pistol-whipped and even shot. The case was brought to federal authorities after five years of investigation by escaped workers and coalition members.

In “The Slave Next Door,” Kevin Bales and Ron Soodalter describe the work of Laura Germino and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in the U.S. vs. Flores case. This is an excerpt:

“The conviction of Flores was a landmark case and instrumental in bringing about the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act in 2000, with its set of definitions, charges, and penalties for dealing specifically with cases of sex and labor slavery in the United States. “And from a time when, in the words of Mike Baron (then a federal Border Patrol Agent) ‘you could fit the whole antislavery movement in the back of my patrol truck,’ it helped spark the anti-human trafficking effort in the country today.

“Baron is lavish in his praise of the coalition’s (Coalition of Immokalee Workers) efforts: ‘If law enforcement had the same dedication and tenacity as the CIW, and weren’t bound by our restrictions, there wouldn’t be a place for the criminals to hide. They maintained contact with the workers and tracked the movements of the crew leaders.

“ ‘Without the CIW, we wouldn’t have had any witnesses; we never would have found the victims. ‘”

Chief Assistant US Attorney Doug Molloy — who worked with Laura and the CIW on the 2008 Navarrete prosecution — is also quoted in the article, and the quote is so nice that we will close with it here:

“…. The Navarrete case – which Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Molloy called one of Southwest Florida’s “biggest, ugliest slavery cases ever” – was the seventh such federal slavery prosecution in Florida over the last 13 years. In all, the U.S. government has freed more than 1,000 slaves in Florida since 1997.

Molloy, who has worked closely with Germino over the years, calls her an inspiration – “and that comes from the heart,” Molloy said. “The coolest thing about Laura is that she worked for a very long time without the spotlight, and she’ll work a very long time when the spotlight is not so bright.

“That’s one of the things that makes her a true hero.”

More to come… Check back soon for more on Monday’s ceremony and the museum’s big trip to the Nation’s Capital!