Application for Replacement Passport

Description
This is an application for a replacement Thai passport based on fraudulent claim of loss. Obtaining real passports allowed the El Monte operators to simply change the picture in order to smuggle new workers into the country.
Recruited from Thailand, the El Monte workers were tricked into accepting employment by misrepresentations of their future working and living conditions. They were told they would sew in a clean factory, receive good pay, and have the weekends off. They were even shown photographs of company parties and outings to Disneyland. After signing contracts (indenture agreements) committing themselves to repay 120,000 baht (about $5,000 in 1997 dollars), they were smuggled into the United States on fraudulent passports.
On arrival, the sweatshop operators confiscated the passports and the workers were forced to sew 18 hours a day seven days a week. The debt, a guard force, and threats of physical harm to the workers and their families in Thailand discouraged them from escaping. Although the physical confinement of the work force was unusual, many aspects of the business, such as recruiting and smuggling workers, are relatively common. Less enslaving forms of debt peonage occur surprisingly often in some Asian immigrant communities.
Sweatshops occur in many sectors of manufacturing, but are most often associated with the garment industry. While garments are designed and marketed through big name companies, assembly is often left to contract and sub-contract operations. In these small shops, where profits are razor thin and competition is excessive, abuses are rampant.
On August 2, 1995, police arrested eight operators of the clandestine El Monte garment shop and freed seventy-two Thai nationals who had been working in a form of modern slavery. Workers, recruited in Thailand, were promised good pay and good working conditions. After signing an indenture agreement for $5,000 they were smuggled into the United States with fraudulent documents. The workers were paid about $1.60 an hour with sixteen-hour workdays in horrifying conditions. They were held against their will in a razor wire enclosed complex with an armed guard and were jammed into close living quarters. By 1999, eleven companies Mervyn's, Montgomery Ward, Tomato, Bum International, L.F. Sportswear, Millers Outpost, Balmara, Beniko, F-40 California, Ms. Tops, and Topson Downs, agreed to pay more than $3.7 million dollars to the 150 workers who labored in the El Monte sweatshop. As in most cases of sweatshop production, these companies contend that they did not knowingly contract with operators who were violating the law.
Location
Currently not on view
Associated Place
United States: California, Los Angeles
United States: California, Los Angeles
Measurements
overall: 14 x 8.5;
ID Number
1997.0268.05
accession number
1997.0268
catalog number
1997.0268.05
Credit Line
U.S. Department of Justice. Immigration and Naturalization Service
See more items in
Work and Industry: Mechanical and Civil Engineering
Work
Sweatshops
El Monte
Data Source
National Museum of American History

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