UPDATED: October 31, 2006 0:51 AM
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Jackie’s Mission vs. Human Trafficking

The day after the successful Arlington Arts Center screening of the "Queen from Virginia" documentary, Jackie Bong Wright–Mrs. Virginia pageant winner, widow of a martyred Vietnamese leader, refugee, author and advocate–flew to Taiwan in Asia. Her goal: An Oct. 1-7 data-gathering trip on a cause dear to her heart.

"I’m sending my report to some members of the US Congress, specially to Tom Davis and Jim Moran," she told Asian Fortune. The two co-hosted the Conference on Trafficking of Women and Children she organized in November 2005. She’s also sending copies to 23 members of the General Assembly in Richmond who introduced House Joint Resolution No. 489 in March 2006, commending her for her leadership in combating human trafficking.

In TaoYuan detention center, Jackie interviewed Vietnamese victims held from a few weeks to over a year for violating immigration law. Most of over 100 Vietnamese men and women are in their 20s and early 30s. All had heartbreaking stories to tell. They were subjected to beatings over a mistake for not understanding orders in Chinese, or for refusing to work when sick. The women were harassed sexually or raped.

They had escaped from factories or homes where they signed work contracts with unscrupulous private employment agencies. The terms: a lucrative $500 minimum monthly wage, 40-hour week with a day off. But once in Taiwan, some Taiwanese employment agencies kept their passports, forced them to work as domestic servants and sign documents saddling them with an additional $2,000 or more debts, and threatened them with repatriation if they broke the contracts.

There was no overtime with extra pay, no day off. One-third of their salaries went supposedly to health insurance, savings, food, lodging and income taxes. Another third went to pay their "debt." So, they netted only $100 to $150 a month.

Jackie also met with Mark Taylor, top US State Department official and Brad Parker of the American Institute in Taiwan. The three met with ten other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) advocates at the Vietnamese Migrant Workers and Brides Office (VMWBO), headed by Vietnamese priest, Father Peter Hung Nguyen. The NGOs formed the Migrant Workers’ Alliance.

Commented Jackie: "Fr. Hung is the savior of Vietnamese victims in Taiwan. He has helped some 3,000 cases and recently won several lawsuits on their behalf. He also sheltered Vietnamese ‘brides,’ married to Taiwanese men who treated them like domestic servants." The Migrant Workers Alliance took care of victims from Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam, championing workers’ rights. The group reported two Indonesians died of exhaustion after working 16 straight hours in June and July.

The Alliance wants to represent in court workers who didn’t speak or understand Chinese. (The law allows only Taiwanese lawyers assigned by the judges.) The group is lobbying for an airport service center to represent workers forced to sign repatriation papers before deportation, and urging the Department of Labor to penalize the brokers’ ringleaders.

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