On Tuesday a group of six Mexican veterinarians who were recruited to work on an Idaho dairy farm as animal scientists launched a federal human trafficking lawsuit against the farm and its lawyer for "the fraudulent recruitment of professional Mexican veterinarians for the purpose of evading U.S. immigration laws and hiring workers as low-wage general laborers.”
The lawsuit alleges that despite being recruited under a professional worker visa program, and contracts stipulating they would be overseeing the reproduction program at Funk Dairy Inc., they were illegally forced to work as general laborers, milking cows and cleaning up manure, denied promised wages as well as adequate housing and health care, and threatened with deportation if they didn’t complete their tasks.
“It was a total disappointment because we had hoped to excel in our field,” said Mayra Munoz-Lara, one of the six plaintiffs in the case, adding that she hopes the case will serve as a warning to other Mexican professionals being enticed to work in the U.S.
The six plaintiffs, who have all moved on to work in their field in both Mexico and the U.S., say the original terms of the contract were similar to what they could expect in Mexico but saw the offer as a chance to gain invaluable professional experience in another country.
"I'm not sure I can speculate as to why the company chose this route, but in general agriculture companies have been struggling with labor shortages," said Edgar Ivan Aguilasocho, lawyer for the plaintiffs. "As far as we can tell, this criminal conspiracy was aimed at providing a makeshift solution to that kind of shortage."
The lawsuit comes just three weeks before the inauguration of Donald Trump, who ran on a xenophobic and racist campaign promise to deport at least 3 million migrant workers who he blamed for “taking away jobs” from low- and middle-income white Americans.