WHY POST-PROCESSING SUPPORT IS CRITICAL: A Story of Forced Labor and Abuse
This post tells the story of one perpetrator and 33 victims. It is not an isolated occurrence. It is a shared tale among hundreds, if not thousands, of undocumented migrants who have nowhere to go, nothing to eat, no money, no work authorization, no identification, no direction, no guidance, and are forced to wait years in a backlogged system for their asylum hearing. This should not happen to anyone, ever, in any country, and that’s why Ayúdame Nonprofit was formed.
The Story of Concepcion Malinek
On April 19, 2021, the Honorable Edmond E. Chang of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois sentenced Defendant Concepcion Malinek to 78 months (6.5 years) in prison, along with two (2) years of supervised release and an Order to pay $112,545.00 in restitution. Malinek was charged for attracting struggling families from Guatemala to the U.S., only to then force them to live in inhumane conditions while charging exorbitant rent and “transportation” fees that kept them working essentially as slave laborers at local factories.
Victims were forced to live in the basement of a residence in Cicero, Illinois along with 32 other migrants, including approximately 16 children. Malinek baited each of the victims into paying, among other expenses, monthly expenses of over $600 in “debt” payments, $450 for “rent”, $200 for unspecified “bills”, $200 for transportation arranged by Malinek to/from work, and $35 for a phone. The victims paid these expenses every month by working harsh hours at local factories; jobs that were set up by Malinek. Those that came to the U.S. with children had to pay double. What was left for the victims were scraps.
The victims were kept in the residence as prisoners. One victim explained, “nobody is allowed to leave the basement of the residence to go upstairs unless they call Malinek and receive permission.” And the victims were told “you are free to leave . . . after the debt has been paid,” referring to the tens of thousands of dollars in debt they were forced to pay to Malinek for alleged fees advanced on their behalf. Each of the victims in the residence had cleaning and babysitting duties, and had to follow a list of “rules” in the residence. If they broke a rule they were charged a “fine” by Malinek. They were also subjected to verbal abuse and misled into believing that immigration officials knew about their conditions.
Why not inform the police or call for help? Victims reported that Malinek constantly threatened them with immigration consequences if they talked about their arrangement. Malinek reportedly threatened the victims that if they spoke to anyone about what was going on inside the residence, they would be deported back to Guatemala and their kids would stay alone in the United States with Malinek.
The Migrant’s Dilemma
These situations where undocumented migrants are kept at the mercy of an abusive overlord are not uncommon. An undocumented migrant who must wait years in the U.S. to have their asylum cases heard but who at the same time is not authorized to obtain an ID card, work, or travel abroad and return, faces a significant dilemma. Break the law and work, or starve. Breaking the law, however, is grounds for removal and would disrupt their asylum case. So anyone who can report the migrant becomes someone with leverage who can use the reporting-threat to cajole them into awful circumstances. The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) was meant to remedy this for certain immigrants who were abused by their spouses but wouldn’t otherwise report the abuse for fear of deportation. For those who don’t qualify for VAWA protection, however, the dilemma persists.
What AyúDame NONProfit Does To Help
Ayúdame Nonprofit works with relevant state and federal agencies to meet undocumented migrants who have been processed and are awaiting further asylum proceedings, as well as unaccompanied children in HHS facilities. The nonprofit assists migrants from the very first meeting with the essentials: food, water, and first-aid supplies. In quick succession, Ayúdame Nonprofit’s staff and volunteers provide oral and written guidance to indigent migrants on topics such as access to free legal care, affordable housing, and a review of sanctuary and immigrant-friendly jurisdictions. Guidance on how to access state-issued identification, financial aid, and other key resources to living with dignity are also provided. Ayúdame Nonprofit does not stop there. The nonprofit ensures that indigent migrants have access to free transportation to sanctuary jurisdictions so they can seize on the information they were given, and obtain livable conditions for themselves and, many times, their children. All of this is done with an emphasis on compliance with existing law, and in conjunction with nonprofit partners throughout the country. Ayúdame Nonprofit is committed to ensuring that no one in the United States has to ever rely on the Malineks of the world.