Pinay teacher tells how she became a human trafficking victim

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Jan 30 2013 12:46 PM | Updated as of Jan 31 2013 06:35 PM

NEW YORK - There are many ways an immigrant becomes part of the 11 million or so undocumented immigrants now living in the US.

Fifty-one year-old Filipina educator, Rina Hernandez, originally from Angono, Rizal, is one of them.

Hernandez, an assistant teacher in Qatar, was hired by an Egyptian businessman as a private tutor to one of their six kids.

But when she came to the US with the employer last October, Hernandez claims she ended up being a nanny to the six children and worked more than eight hours day, without overtime pay.

Hernandez said her passport was held. She and two other Filipinas were kept from leaving the employer's Staten Island home.

She came to the US legally using a tourist visa but she unknowingly violated the terms of the visa by working in the US without a proper work visa.

“Bumagsak yung mundo ko. Ano nangyari sa akin? Kung tutuusin medyo maganda naman yung work ko sa Qatar, tapos nangarap ako na akala ko na mas magiging maganda ang buhay ko sa Amerika dahil nga sa pangako ng isang employer,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez was allegedly promised a pay of $1,200 per month and US citizenship in three years.

She says she did not get paid a single cent for the work she has rendered to her employers.

The Philippine Consulate and the Filipino American legal defense and education fund (Faldef), came to her rescue last December after connecting with them thru social media.

Faldef communications director and author of "Out of Status" Jen Furer received her Facebook message asking for help.

Furer said, "Rina said, I really wanted out. They stopped her from getting out, they had to call the cops then eventually she's rescued."

Faldef president attorney JT Mallonga said, "We're putting together a team of lawyers to handle the immigration, employment and criminal and human trafficking issues here so as soon as we get that out, we will file case however ang importante ho ay may kasama pa siyang dalawa dun eh who are not willing to be rescued dahil sa malaking takot."

Alleged victims of human trafficking and involuntary servitude like Rina Hernandez say, most of them come to the US with only one goal in mind.

Hernandez said, "Gusto ko magtrabaho, kailangan ko magtrabaho, para sa family ko, kailangan ko magtrabaho, yun lang ang hinihiling ko na tapusin ko ang laban na ito."

Faldef says human trafficking may not be a byword in the whole immigration reform debate but it should be a part of the debate that would overhaul a broken US immigration system.