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December 18, 2011 9:58 AM   Subscribe

Shyima Hall has been granted US citizenship.

Shyima's birth family sold her into domestic slavery when she was ten. She was brought to the USA by her purchasers, who kept her in their garage (photos) until a neighbour reported the situation. Shyima was freed, and subsequently adopted by the Hall family.

Shyima was freed because a neighbour saw a child working as a domestic servant and called the police. Slavery isn't just something that happens overseas; SlaveryMap will tell you about reported slavery in your area and things you can do to combat it. SlaveryMap is a project of the non-profit organisation Not For Sale. (previously)
posted by Joe in Australia (48 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
came for the "What's going on?"

Stayed for the "Oh my god..."
posted by rebent at 10:00 AM on December 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Thanks for the post. Glad to see this story has a happy ending.
posted by quodlibet at 10:07 AM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Good for her!
Good story.
posted by growabrain at 10:12 AM on December 18, 2011


Lot of slaves in America. Many stories like this in Ending Slavery by Kevin Bales. They are horrific, but then triumphant, so oddly optimistic to read about.
posted by stbalbach at 10:13 AM on December 18, 2011


I wrote about domestic labor trafficking in graduate school. It's a huge problem that will never get sufficient media/political attention relative to sex trafficking. There's a few reasons for this, beyond the obvious "sex sells" concern.

Women who are trafficked into brothels are often housed together, there are often multiple outsiders/customers who can report out, etc. Women who are trafficked into domestic labor are often isolated, frequently are locked-in, do not see anyone other than those who keep them enslaved. When law enforcement officers receive information about sex trafficking, they often can find many people at once - which creates larger buzz, etc. At best, the decentralized nature of domestic labor prevents any "big" raids that would generate publicity.

And the profits off sex trafficking take a different form than those of domestic labor. The economic weirdness by which we treat domestic labor means there's little to launder and it's harder to follow the money.

It's nice to see some coverage of the topic.
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:13 AM on December 18, 2011 [10 favorites]


oh the irony...
posted by ennui.bz at 10:19 AM on December 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


Aside from obvious cases like this, many illegal immigrants in the US are working in slave-like conditions simply because they have no real recourse to the legal system to protect themselves should an employer take advantage of them.
posted by empath at 10:20 AM on December 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


From the slaverymap link, a local story: Patrick often transported the girls in a van on which he had painted "Ho Hauler" and forced the girls to pose nude outside the van for his friends.
posted by desjardins at 10:22 AM on December 18, 2011


I'm sorry to say this isn't the first time I've learned of domestic slavery in the US, but I am very glad this story has a happy ending.
posted by ambrosia at 10:23 AM on December 18, 2011


I would also recommend A Crime So Monstrous for a book on modern slavery. It's very good at giving an idea at the breadth and variation of slavery. He does concentrate outside the US but never claims similar types of horror don't occur here. Also the effects of the EU and the breakup of the USSR on slavery is very interesting.
posted by R343L at 10:25 AM on December 18, 2011


I'm sorry to say this isn't the first time I've learned of domestic slavery in the US...

I'm even sorrier to say this IS the first time I've learned of domestic slavery in the US.
posted by mreleganza at 10:29 AM on December 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Good for her. She seem like a great kid.

I truly do not know what goes through someone's mind who thinks it's OK to sell or buy a child, to look this person in the face everyday and know that you are mistreating him or her. And good for the neighbor for reporting it, you've earned some seriously good karma.
posted by shoesietart at 10:33 AM on December 18, 2011


Awesome Winter Solstice story! A happy ending after true hardship; uplifting without being saccharine. I didn't see anywhere to donate money (to combat human trafficking, not necessarily this woman), but I feel like this is one of those times where it wouldn't feel exploitative; especially considering how little press or police resources are devoted to it in the US. Imagine if she wasn't a child, or slightly older, I bet they would've deported her into a hellish predicament back home.

On a personal note, it makes my war against Christmas seems so petty when literal enslavement still exists in the world.
posted by PJLandis at 10:39 AM on December 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Huffington Post links's epilogue says : On a recent afternoon in Cairo, Madame Amal walked into the lobby of her apartment complex wearing designer sunglasses and a chic scarf. ... She did not agree to be interviewed for this story. Before the door closed behind her, a little girl slipped in carrying grocery bags. She wore a shabby T-shirt. Her small feet slapped the floor in loose flip-flops. Her eyes were trained on the ground. She looked to be around 9 years old.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:40 AM on December 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


EPILOGUE: On a recent afternoon in Cairo, Madame Amal walked into the lobby of her apartment complex wearing designer sunglasses and a chic scarf. After nearly two years in a U.S. prison cell, she's living once more in the spacious apartment where Shyima first worked as her maid ... Before the door closed behind her, a little girl slipped in carrying grocery bags. She wore a shabby T-shirt. Her small feet slapped the floor in loose flip-flops. Her eyes were trained on the ground. She looked to be around 9 years old.

From the Huffington Post article, written in December 2008. If the girl was about nine years old then, she'd be about twelve now.
posted by hypotheticole at 10:41 AM on December 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


The slaverymap tool brings forth disturbing results, right in my neighborhood:

EMANCIPATION
Were the victims emancipated?
Yes
If yes: did they receive aftercare (legal, social services, etc)?
No


Aftercare is crucial. It's not enough to put the perpetrators behind bars; restitution must be made to the victims. How do you expect someone who has experienced such trauma to function in society without assistance? And not crap assistance, either, like the kind I've seen offered in this area, but real actual help. After you've been held captive and sexually abused, you have a hard time trusting people, and your reactions are completely off-kilter with the rest of the world. You can have problems with the tiniest of things, like a male boss who is prone to yelling or the sound of a certain kind of doorbell. Helping the victims become survivors is not optional.
posted by brina at 10:42 AM on December 18, 2011 [8 favorites]


I'm curious what law violations the couple who owned her were charged with. Hopefully there's a nice long list.
posted by Pants! at 10:55 AM on December 18, 2011


From that HuffPo link:They were ordered to pay $76,000, the amount Shyima would have earned at the minimum wage.

What?!? Do you really think that's enough for a lifetime of medical and legal expenses that result from this kind of trauma? Seriously?
posted by brina at 10:59 AM on December 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Can you charge an individual in court specifically with violating a constitutional amendment?
posted by desjardins at 10:59 AM on December 18, 2011


Can you charge an individual in court specifically with violating a constitutional amendment?

Nope. The Constitution places restrictions and obligations on government, not individuals.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:01 AM on December 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Jeeesuuus....
posted by odinsdream at 11:06 AM on December 18, 2011


Tomorrowful - true, but in kind of a meaningless way where the 13th Amendment is concerned (also the 18th amendment, though obviously that distinction matters even less there.) The 13th Amendment gives Congress the power to legislate enforcement of itself to ensure that no slavery exists anywhere in the U.S. So no, the charges won't specifically be with violating the 13th Amendment, but rather with violating the enforcement statutes, but yeah.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:34 AM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nope. The Constitution places restrictions and obligations on government, not individuals.

Could you charge the government with allowing this to go on?

(I'm not recommending this course of action, I'm just wondering.)
posted by wayland at 11:41 AM on December 18, 2011


The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency estimates that 50,000 people are trafficked into or transited through the U.S.A. annually as sex slaves, domestics, garment, and agricultural slaves.
posted by adamvasco at 11:41 AM on December 18, 2011


That picture at the top of the story makes me tear up a little. Such ebullience, I really hope that the rest of her life continues to be so much better than what came before.
posted by Edgewise at 11:44 AM on December 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Could you charge the government with allowing this to go on?

Maybe via a 1983 action? I dunno. As Navelgazer said, the 13th Amendment is in essence enforceable against private actors (as is, for instance, the 14th Amendment to some extent). It wouldn't have been terribly effective at ending slavery if all it had done was prevent the government from having slaves (or affirmatively endorsing slavery).
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 11:57 AM on December 18, 2011


Could you charge the government with allowing this to go on?

Apparently there have been 13th Amendment cases against states. Here's one I turned up — Alabama passed a law saying you could imprison someone for quitting their job after taking an advance on their pay. The Supreme Court ruled that that basically amounted to legalized indentured servitude, and overturned it.

So what Alabama did there goes beyond just "allowing" slavery to exist. They were actually trying to set up a legal basis for a particular sort of wage slavery. But it shows you that, yeah, state governments can get taken to task for this sort of thing.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:00 PM on December 18, 2011


That picture at the top of the story makes me tear up a little.

My lord yes — that smile!
posted by benito.strauss at 12:03 PM on December 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


Imagine if the DEA were told tomorrow that their job is now to catch slavers.
posted by planet at 12:07 PM on December 18, 2011 [9 favorites]


Surely the slaveowners would be guilty of, at the very least, kidnapping or unlawful imprisonment or the like? Not to mention child labor laws?

If their only risk is to pay what they would have paid her at minimum wage then there is absolutely no economic incentive not to buy slaves.
posted by hattifattener at 12:09 PM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


If their only risk is to pay what they would have paid her at minimum wage then there is absolutely no economic incentive not to buy slaves.

Well, they were also imprisoned and deported. But yeah. I bet Shyima herself could have sued them civilly and won a bigger judgment, but I can also see the appeal of wanting to move on with your life. And who knows whether you'd actually get any money out of them. I wonder what happened to their assets in the U.S., if they owned their house, etc.?
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 12:16 PM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I had the same thought planet. It really puts political/criminal priorities in perspective. The DEA, ICE, and a fraction of your average police force I think could make a serious difference but it will never happen. Sad, to uplifting, to sad again.
posted by PJLandis at 12:20 PM on December 18, 2011


ICE is already the federal organization in charge of dealing with slavers, isn't it? At least, trafficked foreigners. I suppose purely domestic slavery would fall to the FBI?

Imagine if the DEA were told tomorrow that their job is now to catch slavers

It's not an appealing scenario. Slavery would boom, the CIA would support its operations by selling people via extraordinary rendition, and any family with more than two kids would be presumed guilty of possession with intent to sell.
posted by hattifattener at 12:54 PM on December 18, 2011 [12 favorites]


From the Huffington Post article, written in December 2008. If the girl was about nine years old then, she'd be about twelve now.

I wouldn't rely on HuffPo for much. The indictment of the couple was in 2005. "The girl was held by Ibrahim and Motelib from August 2000 until she was freed by authorities on April 9, 2002."

Surely the slaveowners would be guilty of, at the very least, kidnapping or unlawful imprisonment or the like? Not to mention child labor laws?

Well, yes. They were charged with federal crimes. They pleaded guilty. They were deported. Is there something you're missing here? The problem isn't the lack of laws, it's the difficulty of finding and proving cases. (As in this one, often the slave/servant is complicit for personal or cultural reasons -- such as protecting their relatives back home -- and isn't a good witness.)
posted by dhartung at 1:00 PM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are people who look at the "Occupy Wall Street" movement, and scratch their heads, and wonder "But - but what's wrong with economic inequality?"

This. THIS is where economic inequality leads us.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 1:16 PM on December 18, 2011 [8 favorites]


Is there something you're missing here?

Yes: I didn't finish reading the links before posting. My bad; I apologize.

posted by hattifattener at 1:24 PM on December 18, 2011


(As in this one, often the slave/servant is complicit for personal or cultural reasons -- such as protecting their relatives back home -- and isn't a good witness.)

Yeah, slavers are often top-tier liars and manipulators. They often convince their slaves that they'll get in far worse trouble if they try to turn in the slavers. This is especially true in cases where the slaves are forced to be prostitutes.

I remember the slavery case from about 10-15 years back in White Plains, where the slavers got in trouble not only for the obvious crime, but for their sophisticated-but-thankfully-not-sophisticated-enough attempts to falsify documents and suborn perjury.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:34 PM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is also the first time I've ever heard of domestic slavery in the modern US. This doesn't even make sense to me on a basic level, besides the obvious inhumanity of slavery; if you're wealthy, why wouldn't you just hire a servant? Is this some sort of cultural thing?
posted by WhitenoisE at 1:38 PM on December 18, 2011


Pleasantly surprised to see this story didn't end with Shyima being deported as an illegal alien. Saddened to think that was what I'd expected to happen.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:55 PM on December 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


At first I was like, "Good on Pittsburgh, only three reported cases!" and then I was like, "Oh God, Pittsburgh, there have been at least three people kept as slaves and no one noticed for the longest time."
posted by Slackermagee at 2:34 PM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


oneswellfoop, it used to actually be a concern, but:
In October 2000, Congress created the “T” nonimmigrant status by passing the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA).... Victims of severe forms of human trafficking are eligible for a T Nonimmigrant status (T visa). The T nonimmigrant visa allows victims to remain in the United States to assist in the investigation or prosecution of human traffickers. Once a T nonimmigrant visa is granted, a victim can apply for permanent residence after three years.

Is this some sort of cultural thing?

Pretty much. It's really almost more horrifying to realize that these guys represent just a fraction of the households in their class keeping slaves back home. Most of these cases are traced back to a few select regions where it remains common and accepted.

Indeed, that HuffPo article (it's easy to miss if you're just scanning) is describing the reporter witnessing the fact that the woman has returned to Egypt and has a slave again.
God, I hope civilian government there can begin doing something about this.

I don't think there are that many domestic servitude cases, though, in defense of your perception. It's a pretty odd thing here and would be difficult to hide if you had any kind of open life. These rare high-flyers who want to slip into the US and create a little pocket of Egypt or wherever aren't going to socialize with the Brady Bunch down the street, much.
posted by dhartung at 3:25 PM on December 18, 2011


This is also the first time I've ever heard of domestic slavery in the modern US. This doesn't even make sense to me on a basic level, besides the obvious inhumanity of slavery; if you're wealthy, why wouldn't you just hire a servant? Is this some sort of cultural thing?

It is a cultural thing, to a certain extent: to these people, hiring a servant was exactly what they were doing. I'm sure they didn't think it was slavery. After all, they were paying her mother, right?
posted by deadmessenger at 5:04 PM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


It'd be great to hear Mark Abend's story, too. He is a hero—to at least some degree—in this tale.
posted by bz at 6:49 PM on December 18, 2011


Ah, found the case near me, in the Milwaukee area:
Maid lived 20 years in quiet struggle
Couple manipulated traditional arrangement with threats, smuggling

Even at trial, the defendant believed in her heart that Martinez would spare the family, that she would take the witness stand and testify that their living arrangement was based on mutual respect and understanding of Filipino culture.

bz: Abend was interviewed for this article.
posted by dhartung at 10:18 PM on December 18, 2011


Damn does that girl have fortitude and resilience.
posted by flippant at 2:09 AM on December 19, 2011


It's worth noting all the cases in my area involve human trafficking and prostitution, as do most of the others I randomly clicked, however, sex workers seem like they might be less sympathetic victims to many (for unfounded reasons), or perhaps just too dark, compared to child maids. Your average teenage sex slave probably doesn't end up doing quite as well as this girl.

Prostitution and "pimps" are not uncommon in the US and show the same disregard for autonomy, dignity, and human rights (obviously excluding those who choose sex work and make a decision to hire security) that these other situations do so I don't think culture is the major factor outside of the form and I hope no one here is arguing the superiority of one form of slavery over another.

This reminds me of a story my father once told me about his time in the navy during the 60's, I think (maybe late 50's). He was docked in the Arabian Peninsula and when they came ashore the locals took them to a women's prison where the prisoner's could prostitute themselves to pay some kind of bail. He wasn't clear on the specifics, but second to child prostitutes that was the second worst thing he has related to me. And, at least by his account, he refrained and objected in both cases.
posted by PJLandis at 7:01 AM on December 19, 2011


Good for her!
posted by zarq at 7:58 AM on December 19, 2011


I've never before wished for a like button on the blue.
posted by windowbr8r at 9:57 AM on December 19, 2011


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