Catholic Charities, Diocese of Metuchen committed to serving, fighting exploitation of immigrants

LETTER TO THE EDITOR
January 10, 2017
Catholic Charities, Diocese of Metuchen committed to serving, fighting exploitation of immigrants
A recent article in Woodbridge Patch detailed human trafficking charges brought against two men after six unauthorized migrants were found living in an unheated shed behind a poultry slaughterhouse located in Perth Amboy. City inspectors shut the business down for good due to extensive code and health violations. The displaced immigrant workers were referred to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Metuchen, which provided them with food, legal support and transitional housing.
It was then Catholic Charities staff members learned that, for several years, the immigrant workers were forced to work in highly unsanitary and unhealthy conditions anywhere from 70-to-100 hours, six days a week for as little as $2.90 per hour, and were threatened by the plant’s owners with arrest and deportation when they complained about their working conditions. From their meager earnings, each worker is said to have paid $40 per week to live in substandard housing onsite.
Only after getting permission from the workers did our Catholic Charities team notify federal law enforcement of possible human trafficking and involuntary servitude abuses. A subsequent federal investigation led to the Nov. 29 arrest of the owner and manager of the business, and an attempt to recover the thousands of dollars in stolen wages these workers are owed. The outcome is yet unknown and, certainly, we pray that justice will be served. Thankfully, the affected workers are now living self-sufficiently, with renewed dignity and freedom from fear due to Catholic Charities’ support.
While this unthinkable and unjust situation gained limited media attention, it is not the only, or worst, offense perpetrated against countless vulnerable immigrants living, working and worshipping in our local communities. The very good news, however, is that amongst other institutions, the Catholic Church remains committed to accompanying immigrant and refugee individuals and families as they work for a better life right here in Central New Jersey.
Catholic Charities, Diocese of Metuchen provides legal, educational, and material support to thousands of immigrant families. We help immigrant workers vulnerable to exploitation exercise their rights in the workplace, reunite and keep together 1,000 families every year, and collaborate with local police to support immigrant victims of domestic violence. Over the last four years, we have accompanied hundreds of young people, who were brought to this country without authorization when they were children, in achieving a real future through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program; and we remain committed to supporting these young people who represent our future.
In November, Pope Francis reminded us that, “In God’s heart there are no enemies. God only has sons and daughters. We are the ones who raise walls, build barriers and label people.” As the local Church in Metuchen, our celebration of National Migration Week Jan. 8-14 calls us to reflect on the circumstances confronting migrants, including immigrants, refugees, children, and survivors of human trafficking. It reminds us that we must continue our efforts to serve, build community, and stand in solidarity with immigrants and refugees in ways that the laws of our nation, our national security as well as the core principles on which our country was founded.
 
Most Rev. James F. Checchio
Bishop of Metuchen

En español

LETTER TO THE EDITOR
January 10, 2017

Recent local media reports detailed human trafficking charges brought against two men after six unauthorized migrants were found living in an unheated shed behind a poultry slaughterhouse located in Perth Amboy. City inspectors shut the business down for good due to extensive code and health violations. The displaced immigrant workers were referred to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Metuchen, which provided them with food, legal support and transitional housing.

It was then Catholic Charities staff members learned that, for several years, the immigrant workers were forced to work in highly unsanitary and unhealthy conditions anywhere from 70-to-100 hours, six days a week for as little as $2.90 per hour, and were threatened by the plant’s owners with arrest and deportation when they complained about their working conditions. From their meager earnings, each worker is said to have paid $40 per week to live in substandard housing onsite.

Only after getting permission from the workers did our Catholic Charities team notify federal law enforcement of possible human trafficking and involuntary servitude abuses. A subsequent federal investigation led to the Nov. 29 arrest of the owner and manager of the business, and an attempt to recover the thousands of dollars in stolen wages these workers are owed. The outcome is yet unknown and, certainly, we pray that justice will be served. Thankfully, the affected workers are now living self-sufficiently, with renewed dignity and freedom from fear due to Catholic Charities’ support.

While this unthinkable and unjust situation gained limited media attention, it is not the only, or worst, offense perpetrated against countless vulnerable immigrants living, working and worshipping in our local communities. The very good news, however, is that amongst other institutions, the Catholic Church remains committed to accompanying immigrant and refugee individuals and families as they work for a better life right here in Central New Jersey.

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Metuchen provides legal, educational, and material support to thousands of immigrant families. We help immigrant workers vulnerable to exploitation exercise their rights in the workplace, reunite and keep together 1,000 families every year, and collaborate with local police to support immigrant victims of domestic violence. Over the last four years, we have accompanied hundreds of young people, who were brought to this country without authorization when they were children, in achieving a real future through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program; and we remain committed to supporting these young people who represent our future.

In November, Pope Francis reminded us that, “In God’s heart there are no enemies. God only has sons and daughters. We are the ones who raise walls, build barriers and label people.” As the local Church in Metuchen, our celebration of National Migration Week Jan. 8-14 calls us to reflect on the circumstances confronting migrants, including immigrants, refugees, children, and survivors of human trafficking. It reminds us that we must continue our efforts to serve, build community, and stand in solidarity with immigrants and refugees in ways consistent with the laws of our nation, our national security as well as the core principles on which our country was founded.

Most Rev. James F. Checchio
Bishop of Metuchen

***
Read recent media reports:

The Star-LedgerHalal slaughterhouse investigation began with charity's tip (December 3, 2016)
Courier News & Home News Tribune2 New York man accused of human trafficking in Perth Amboy (November 30, 2016)
Woodbridge Patch2 Men Charged With Human Trafficking At Middlesex County Slaughterhouse: US Attorney (November 30, 2016)


Caridades Católicas, la Diócesis de Metuchen está comprometida a servir y a luchar  contra la explotación de inmigrantes

Carta el editor
10 de enero, 2017
 

Un artículo reciente en Woodbridge Patch describe en detalle los cargos de tráfico humano en contra de dos hombres después de que se encontraron a seis inmigrantes sin documentos en una cabaña detrás de un negocio dedicado a la matanza de pollos en Perth Amboy.  Los inspectores de la ciudad cerraron el negocio para siempre debido a las violaciones de la ley cometidas.  Los trabajadores inmigrantes fueron referidos a Caridades Católicas de la Diócesis de Metuchen, donde recibieron comida, apoyo legal y albergue temporal. 

Es así que el personal de Caridades Católicas supo que por siete años, estos trabajadores fueron forzados a trabajar en condiciones infrahumanas de 70 a 100 horas, seis días a la semana por la cantidad mínima de $2.90 la hora, y fueron amenazados por los propietarios de la planta con ser arrestados o deportados si se quejaban por las condiciones de trabajo.  De su salario frugal, cada trabajador pagaba $40 cada semana por vivir en estas terribles condiciones. 

Después de ser autorizados por los trabajadores, el equipo de Caridades Católicas notificó a las oficinas federales sobre un posible tráfico de personas y abusos de servicios involuntarios.  Una investigación federal llevo al arresto del propietario del negocio el 29 de noviembre.  Asimismo, se está tratando de recuperar los miles de dólares en salarios robados de estos trabajadores.  Todavía no se sabe el resultado, y por supuesto rezamos para que se haga justicia. Los trabajadores ahora son independientes y se mantienen a sí mismos, con dignidad y libertad, gracias al trabajo de Caridades Católicas. 

Aunque esta terrible e injusta situación no fue cubierta extensamente por los medios de comunicación; no es la única, o la peor ofensa perpetrada en contra de tantos inmigrantes vulnerables viviendo, trabajando y rezando en nuestras comunidades locales.  La buena noticia, sin embargo, es que entre otras instituciones, la Iglesia Católica permanece comprometida a acompañar al inmigrante y refugiado con sus familias a medida que tratan de buscar una vida mejor en New Jersey del Centro.

Caridades Católicas de la Diócesis de Metuchen ofrece apoyo legal, educacional, y material a miles de familias inmigrantes.  Ayudamos a los trabajadores inmigrantes vulnerables a la explotación a que puedan ejercer sus derechos en los centros laborales, reuniéndolos y manteniendo juntas a más de 1000 familias al año, y colaborando con la policía local para ayudar a las victimas inmigrantes de la violencia doméstica.

En los últimos cuatro años, hemos acompañados a cientos de jóvenes, quienes llegaron a este país sin autorización cuando eran niños, para lograr un futuro mejor por medio de DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals); y continuamos comprometidos a seguir apoyando a estos jóvenes quienes representan nuestro futuro. 

En noviembre, el Papa Francisco nos recordó que, “En el corazón de Dios no hay enemigos.  Dios solamente tiene hijos e hijas.  Somos nosotros quienes construimos las paredes, barreras y etiquetamos a las personas.” Como Iglesia local en Metuchen, nuestra celebración de la Semana Nacional de la Migración Enero 8-14 nos llama a reflexionar en las circunstancias confrontando a los migrantes, incluyendo inmigrantes, refugiados, niños, y sobrevivientes del tráfico de personas.  Nos recuerda que necesitamos continuar nuestros esfuerzos para servir, construir comunidad, y ser solidarios con los inmigrantes y refugiados de acuerdo a las leyes de nuestra nación, nuestra seguridad nacional y a los principios en los cuales nuestro país se fundó. 

Reverendísimo James F. Checchio
Obispo de Metuchen