Unskilled farm labor jobs attract immigrants who are easily exploited. Many don’t know their rights or may fear calling authorities if they’re here illegally. Since 1997, the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division has prosecuted several labor servitude cases in Florida, prompting one federal official to label the state "ground zero for modern slavery.”
The Tecum Case
For years, Jose Tecum stalked a girl in her Guatemalan village. In the summer of 1999, he kidnapped her.
Tecum used witchcraft, or brujeria, native to their culture to ensure that she never left his side. The girl believed she and her family would be hurt if she didn’t live with him. He raped her, locking the girl inside his house. With no police in her village, the girl had no place to get help.
Soon after, Tecum smuggled the girl to Immokalee to live with him and his wife, Maria, and their three children, to do domestic chores in the couple’s home. He destroyed her identification papers.
A lock of hair and a shoe were used in witchcraft ceremonies, which the enslaved teenage girl thought gave Jose Tecum control over her soul.
These items and photos of the girl’s living conditions in Guatemala were used as evidence in prosecuting the case.
Tecum told the girl she would have to work in farm labor and in his home for a year to pay off the smuggling debt, demanding the girl sign over her paychecks to him. Tecum forced her to have sex with him when his wife was not at home.