Arrest of Human Labor Traffickers in South Carolina Another Reason to Rejoice

This s a photo of Kevin Seraaj, journalist and publisher of the Orlando Advocate
Kevin Seraaj, publisher, Orlando Advocate

by Kevin Seraaj, Orlando Advocate, Cornerstone Media Group

Enrique Balcazar, 35, and Elizabeth Balcazar, 19, operated an LLC filed last year under the name Balcazar Nature Harvesting. They were indicted this past week by a federal grand jury for conspiracy to commit human labor trafficking and fraud in foreign labor contracting. They are accused of making migrant workers pick crops by literally holding guns to their heads.

The Balcazars were not farmers– so they weren’t really “harvesting” as their company name suggests. Instead, they were operating a forced work labor pool providing workers to “legitimate” South Carolina farms. According to Corey F. Ellis, the United States attorney for the District of South Carolina, the Balcazars “employed,” then restrained the victims by taking their passports at gun point. Tne workers were forced to work excessive hours for little pay, and threatened with deportation if they didn’t work hard enough.

“Although the indictment speaks for itself, those who exploit the system and abuse these vulnerable workers will find no refuge here in South Carolina,” Ellis said in a statement. “Our office will utilize all available resources to bring such offenders to justice while rescuing and restoring victims in the process. Sadly, we know that many labor trafficking victims, both foreign and domestic, suffer here in the United States and that such violations frequently go undetected.”

“Labor trafficking and exploitation is real, and it is happening in South Carolina,” added South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) chief Mark Keel. “Agents have and will continue to work in collaboration with our local and federal partners to rescue those being victimized and bring justice to those who profit from the misery of others.”

The Balcazars face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. They are currently detained pending trial. Human slavery will only end when the price to be paid for engaging in it involves mandatory minimum imprisonment.