FULLERTON, California - Angela Guanzon thought her American dream was within reach. With a visa in one hand and a plane ticket in the other, Guanzon, originally from Bacolod City, Philippines, traveled to the United States in 2005.
She thought working in America would give her a better life.
She was wrong.
“I worked 18 hour days and had to sleep on the floor in a hallway,” Guanzon said. “My co-workers and I were threatened if we tried to escape.”
With a steely demeanor, the 36-year-old Guanzon paused at times as she recounted her story at a house committee on foreign affairs hearing at California State University Fullerton.
Hosted by Congressman Ed Royce, the hearing examined what the State Department, law enforcement officials, and community organizations are doing to combat this form of "modern day slavery."
Royce said the State Department’s human trafficking ranking is a good step. Countries are trying to stay away from being named in that report.
"It shames them for their failure to comply with efforts to stop the trafficking of underage girls and try to stop trafficking of labor," Royce said.
Human trafficking, which includes sex and labor is a $32 billion criminal enterprise worldwide, second only to narcotics, according to officials.
Guanzon’s story is not uncommon in the Filipino community. The Philippines is notoriously known as a source country where human trafficking is pervasive.
Mired in poverty, countless Filipino men and women looking for an opportunity to support their families fall victim to unscrupulous recruiters and agencies.
“The Philippines currently is, I believe, the second largest victim population we’re serving,” Kay Buck of the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Human Trafficking said. “It’s a combination of sex and labor trafficking.”
Buck said she’s hoping new legislation brought up by Congressman Royce will help curb labor trafficking.
The FBI rescued Guanzon and several other workers in 2008. She said she testified because she doesn’t want what happened to her, happen to anyone else.
“Akala nila pag inapproach ka nila papuntang America it's like a big opportunity pero kailangan mo pa din malaman before you grab the opportunity," she said.