The shelter operator forced migrants to do construction work
2 mins read

The shelter operator forced migrants to do construction work

Protestant pastor sentenced to 10 years in prison under the Human Trafficking Act

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The operator of an immigrant shelter in Juarez, Mexico, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on human trafficking/forced labor charges.

On Monday, a Chihuahua state judge also ordered Velia HG, a Protestant pastor, to pay $3,500 in damages to migrants she allegedly forced to do free construction work on her property.

The conviction follows a July 2022 police raid on the Aposento Alto (High Throne) shelter in the Lomas de Poleo neighborhood near the U.S. border wall in Sunland Park, New Mexico. According to prosecutors, the raid occurred after government officials who inspected the shelter heard testimony from guests who said the director required them to work for her or face expulsion.

β€œIn the period from October 2021 to April 2022, (Velia HG) forced the victims to perform construction work for her. She also threatened to deny them shelter or interfere with immigration proceedings, subjecting them to unfair living conditions that deprived them of their dignity,” the Chihuahua State Attorney General’s Office said in a statement after the verdict.

Velia HG has consistently denied the accusations. Mexican law prohibits authorities from releasing the full names of suspects.

On Wednesday, a police officer escorted a woman and her child out of the Aposento Alto migrant shelter in Juarez. The state of Chihuahua closed a shelter amid allegations of forced labor.

Aposento Alto is among at least 20 church-run migrant shelters that have opened in Juarez since 2018. Most of them are small facilities built behind Protestant churches and most rely on donations to provide food and pay utilities, according to Border Report reports from the last four years. adopted.

Although they do not license them, state authorities inspect shelters to ensure that migrants do not live in poverty and that human rights are respected. The inspection in Aposento Alto initially prompted a notice to the state Human Rights Commission. This led to an investigation by state police.