Saturday, January 10, 2009

Guatemalan girl describes alleged enforced prostitution by fellow immigrants

When Sandra agreed to make the perilous trek from her native Guatemala to the United States in 2006, she said, she was lured by the prospect of a job as a housekeeper that would enable her to send money to her impoverished family back home. Her father had a hernia that prevented him from working, and money was so tight that she and her 12 siblings sometimes didn't have shoes or enough to eat, the young woman testified in federal court in Los Angeles. But not long after Sandra was delivered to L.A. by human-smuggling "coyotes," she learned that the job awaiting her had nothing to do with cleaning houses. Instead, she said, she was told that she would have to "lay with men." "Did you understand you were going to be working as a prostitute?" asked Assistant U.S. Atty. Cheryl Murphy. "I did not know what that word was," Sandra responded through a Spanish-language translator. "Now I do." Sandra's last name was not disclosed in court because she is the alleged victim of a sex crime and because prosecutors contend she is a minor. She went on to testify how she was held captive, beaten, raped and forced to have sex with as many as 10 men a day by a group of fellow immigrants. She was the first in a string of young women to testify in what is expected to be a weeks-long trial before U.S. District Judge Margaret M. Morrow. The defendants, most of them illegal immigrants from Guatemala, are accused of luring 10 unsuspecting young women - in some cases, girls - to the United States with the promise of legitimate jobs such as waitressing or working in jewelry or clothing stores.

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