While social media was atwitter over the arrest of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft at a Florida massage parlor last week, the more substantive story involved the foreign sex workers who serviced the rich and famous.
Police reported that dozens of Chinese nationals on “temporary visas” lived and worked as prostitutes at a string of day spas in the Sunshine State. The migrants were housed at the facilities and effectively shackled to their jobs. Owner Hua Zhang, 58, and manager Lei Wang, 39, face a host of criminal charges related to the busy sex ring.
If the sex workers are also charged, they could be deported or prosecuted. If designated as victims of human trafficking, they will be eligible for “T” visas. If approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, a T visa recipient can apply for permanent residence after three years.
Whichever way things shake out, L’Affair Florida goes far beyond a local police matter. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Labor must dig into the case to determine exactly how these spa workers-cum-prostitutes got into the country.
Given the rise of global human trafficking, it’s fair to assume this was not a one-off operation. Clearly, the U.S. visa process is being systematically misused and abused.
A prescient article, “How temporary work visas hurt migrant women,” detailed how migrant women can be exploited through legal and illegal means.
Michelle Chen wrote in 2017: “For many women, restrictive labor contracts led to situations in which they faced sexual abuse, labor violations or wage theft.” (Check, check and check.)
“Because of deep regulatory gaps, migrant women are subjected to systemic flaws and restrictions on access to justice that enable companies and labor-recruitment agencies to ensnare them in exploitation and trafficking schemes,” Chen related.
A bloated and poorly policed guest worker system (which just expanded under the government funding bill) is an invitation to abuse and, in a small percentage of cases, to exploitation by human traffickers.
Cases like this exemplify that guest worker visas should be limited to filling gaps where there are legitimate labor shortages (not artificial ones created by employers), and at levels that allow DHS and DOL to police the programs – especially against exploitation by human traffickers.
Whatever one thinks about the supply and demand for U.S. work visas, there’s no need to import women from China or anywhere else to practice the world’s oldest profession.