5,000 signatures reached
To: Biden Administration
Georgia officials linked to farm labor trafficking scheme
Something has to be done now regarding federal oversight of the H2A program. The federal government needed to step in during the civil rights movement when state officials were complicit. Sadly, that appears to be the current situation with Operation Blooming Onion. GA state officials are potentially complicit in this horrifying abuse.
The abuses of the H2A system are not just in Georgia. They extend to Idaho and across the country. The H2A program is a flawed, exploitative program that often harms both farm workers in the U.S. and those being brought to the U.S. through the H2A program.
We demand that the Biden Administration conduct a thorough audit and investigation of the H2A program and immediately implement policies to stop these abuses.
Why is this important?
Operation Blooming Onion has sadly been in the news after it resulted in at least 54 indictments that included forced labor trafficking, human smuggling and money laundering—among others—in a years-long exploitation of workers on South Georgia farms. According to the Department of Justice, the workers were "required to dig onions with their bare hands, paid 20 cents for each bucket harvested, and threatened with guns and violence to keep them in line. The workers were held in cramped, unsanitary quarters and fenced work camps with little or no food, limited plumbing and without safe water. The conspirators are accused of raping, kidnapping and threatening or attempting to kill some of the workers or their families, and in many cases sold or traded the workers to other conspirators. At least two of the workers died as a result of workplace conditions."
The situation has frighteningly expanded to the very officials whose job it is to protect and advocate for these H2A workers. According to a breaking article in USA Today, two Georgia officials have ties to one of the largest U.S. human trafficking cases ever prosecuted involving H2A workers.
Something needs to be done NOW! The federal government needed to step in during the civil rights movement when state officials were complicit. Now GA's labor department—which should be protecting farm workers—has been linked with those charged with exploiting them. Federal officials must step up and take the lead.
The indictments didn't explicitly detail the links to the Georgia government, but journalists combed through public records and social media to reveal them. Perhaps even more shocking than the indictments is that the very government officials tasked with protecting farm workers are accused of being connected to these horrible crimes.
Former Georgia Department of Labor employee Brett Bussey was indicted in the Operation Blooming Onion case for conspiring to engage in forced labor. State Monitor Advocate Jorge Gomez' sister and nephew have been indicted and other members of his family are being investigated. Currently Gomez remains on the job. His sister, Maria Leticia Patricio, is accused of conspiring to engage in forced labor involving foreign farm workers. His nephew, Daniel Mendoza, is accused of aiding in the kidnapping of four workers. His daughter, another sister and a niece are among those whose homes were searched or who had property confiscated in connection with the case but were not indicted.
As they were employed by a state agency tasked with preventing labor violations and inspecting H2A housing, this is clearly a conflict of interest. Sign the petition calling for greater federal oversight on the H2A program and demanding the Biden Administration immediately implement policies to stop the abuses.