Location: United States

Thursday, January 26, 2006

This Makes Me Sick

As a Texan in New Jersey, I've often been struck by some of the similarities between the two states. I wish I never found out about this one.

Guilty plea: I sent more than 20 women into Hudson club slavery
Saturday, January 21, 2006

A woman from Texas admitted in court yesterday she helped smuggle young women and girls from Honduras into this country, then forced them to work as prostitutes and dancers in bars in Union City and Guttenberg.

Elsa Consuelo Isuala-Meza, 44, of Houston - herself an illegal immigrant from Honduras - pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Joel Pisano to engaging in a conspiracy to commit forced labor.

Federal sentencing guidelines recommend a prison term of 30 months to 37 months for the crime, but she could receive less if she cooperates against other suspects. She is being held without bail and is scheduled to be sentenced April 25.

Isuala-Meza is the fourth person to admit playing a role in the scheme, which forced women and girls - at least one as young as 14 - to dance and drink with men in the bars in order to pay off debts of $10,000 to $20,000. But she is the first to say some ring members forced the girls to prostitute themselves to pay off their debts.

The victims told prosecutors they were forced to work in the bars up to seven days a week, from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., and were beaten if they didn't cooperate. Some of the women also said they were raped by male ringleaders, and forced to undergo abortions if they became pregnant.

Investigators said Isuala-Meza and her brother, Jose Arnaldo Isuala-Meza, helped transport dozens of women across the border into the United States and ultimately to New Jersey.

Authorities say Luisa Medrano, 50, of Cliffside Park, was in charge of the operation, putting the women to work at El Paisano Bar on 22nd Street and El Puerto de la Union II on Bergenline Avenue, both in Union City, and El Puerto de la Union II, on Bergenline Avenue in Guttenberg.

Speaking yesterday through a court interpreter, Isuala-Meza said she ran a safe house in Texas, where the immigrant girls, after crossing the border, would stay until they were driven or given a bus ticket to New York or New Jersey.

She said she was wired $250 to $300 for each woman she picked up, to cover food, clothing and bus tickets. She said she made arrangements for more than 20 women and girls between May 2003 and December 2004.

Often she sent the women to live in North Hudson with two sisters who allegedly worked as enforcers, Elvira and Ana Luz Rosales.

She said she thought she was just doing "a favor" for the women, but in court yesterday she admitted she began to suspect something was wrong when she got a call asking if "Elvira's little whores had arrived yet."

She continued to participate in the ring, however.

"Did you know what you were doing was wrong?" Assistant U.S. Attorney Deborah Gannett asked yesterday.

Isuala-Meza paused, then said, "Well, at the end, yes, I realized that."

Newhouse News Service staff writer John P. Martin contributed to this report.

This, more than anything, is the single most compelling reason why we need immigration reform. At least twenty women in Hudson County were used as sex slaves and whores because they had no recourse to the law that would have protected them.

If it were only twenty women (ONLY!); then the passing of each one into a life of rape and abuse is only worth 45 days in prison.

I don't know which is the greater travesty - that this occurred, or that the punishment for the participants is so light.


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