The New American Slavery

Invited to the U.S., Foreign Workers Find a Nightmare

By:  Jessica Garrison, Ken Bensinger and Jeremy Singer-Vine

MAMOU, Louisiana — Travis Manuel and his twin brother, Trey, were shopping at Walmart near this rural town when they met two Mexican women who struck them as sweet. Using a few words of Spanish he had picked up from his Navy days, Travis asked the two women out on a double date.

Around midnight the following Saturday, when they finished their shift at a seafood processing plant, Marisela Valdez and Isy Gonzalez waited for their dates at the remote compound where they lived and worked.

As soon as they got in the Manuel brothers’ car, the women began saying something about “patrón angry,” Travis recalled. While he was trying to puzzle out what they meant, his brother, who was driving, interrupted: “Dude,” Trey said. “There’s someone following us.”

Trey began to take sudden turns on the country roads threading through the rice paddies that dot the area, trying to lose the pickup truck behind them. Finally, they saw a police car.

“I said, we’re gonna flag down this cop” for help, Travis recalled. “But the cop pulled us over, lights on, and told us not to get out of the vehicle,” Trey added, noting that the pickup pulled up and the driver began conferring with the police.

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