I-TEAM: One woman's tale of domestic slavery - WNEM TV 5

I-TEAM: One woman's tale of domestic slavery

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A woman says a Michigan family convinced her to leave her country and her family behind for a good paying job here in the U.S. But that's not what happened at all.

She says she was the victim of a growing problem called domestic slavery.

The woman wants to be known as "Rebecca." She asked that TV5 conceal her true identity, but she couldn't hide her anger and disgust stemming from what she says one Michigan family did to her.

"It made me to feel bad. I was really feeling really bad," said Rebecca.

Rebecca was brought to the U.S. legally.

She says she traveled thousands of miles from her home in west Africa so she could work as a house maid. She says she was promised money to support her two children back home. But instead she says a Detroit area family trapped her for years as a slave.

"Cook, take care of the baby, clean the house, I do every work in the house," said Rebecca.

She says they never paid her a dime.

The problem is called domestic slavery. Immigration Custom Enforcement tracks the growing problem and targets people involved in the slave trade.

When Rebecca first confronted the family that brought her here, she says they took her visa and other legal documents and threatened that if she went to the authorities, she would be jailed or even worse.

Williams Hayes is a special agent with ICE. He says vulnerable people like Rebecca are targeted because they come from countries where the authorities are typically not trusted, so when they become enslaved, they don't call police. Officials say men and women have been enslaved in Michigan for years. Some of them for most of their lives.

Lawmakers are trying to give agencies like ICE even more tools to fight human trafficking. A task force has been created to help prosecute the culprits of these heinous crimes against humanity. So you may be wondering, how bad is it?

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, approximately 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked here in the U.S.  It's estimated that human trafficking is a $32 billion industry.

As for Rebecca, she's still here in the U.S. She says she's happy to be free and hopes she can stay, but this time under her own terms.

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