D.C.'S Indentured Servants

By Honey, Martha | The Progressive, December 1997 | Go to article overview

D.C.'S Indentured Servants


Honey, Martha, The Progressive


The brick townhouse with its aluminum front door blends into northern Virginia's suburban sprawl. From the outside it doesn't look like what it is: a modern-day underground railway station for runaway domestic workers imported from the Third World. The smell of spicy food and the sound of high-pitched chatter drifts out of the kitchen. A cluster of about eight women--runaway nannies and housekeepers, most of them from the Philippines--gathers here. Among them is twenty-three-year-old Marilyn Caracas. Here is her story: A distant relative brought Caracas from the Philippines to clean her Fairfax, Virginia, house and care for her three children. Before getting her visa from the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Caracas signed a contract with her employer, who promised to adhere to U.S. labor laws.

But when Caracas arrived in Washington in March 1994, things were not as she expected. On weekends she cleaned the woman's house and took care of her children. Monday through Friday she stayed at the house of the woman's mother-in-law, where Caracas ran an unregistered day-care center for eleven children, in addition to taking care of the older woman. Caracas says she worked from 6:30 A.M. to 11 P.M. seven days a week, and received a mere $230 a month. (Each child at the day-care center paid the mother-in-law $600 a month.) Caracas's employer took her passport and threatened to dismiss and deport her if she complained, Caracas says.

Caracas was exhausted and sick. She says she didn't know where to turn for help. "I was very sad and afraid. I didn't know anyone and didn't know the regulations, the laws," she says. "They told me they don't want me to talk with others, even my co-Filipinos."

One evening she was allowed out to go to the store to buy sanitary napkins. By chance, she met and talked with two other Filipinas who told her about the brick townhouse. For months she plotted her escape. Then, when the mother-in-law went on vacation, leaving Caracas alone, she searched the house and found her passport, which her employer had hidden in the back of a closet. She called the townhouse and one of the residents there came and got her.

For several years, this townhouse has served as a clandestine way-station on a modern-day underground railway. The owner, "Rose" (not her real name), is part of an informal network of people involved in helping foreign domestic servants escape illegal, exploitative, and sometimes abusive employment situations. Rose gives them a place to stay, counseling, and a community.

Scattered around Washington are other way-stations, mainly churches and social-service centers, that have aided hundreds of foreign domestic workers to escape bad situations, find other employment, and get legal help.

In Caracas's case it didn't work. Through a Washington immigration attorney, Edward Leavy, Caracas filed a $600,000 suit against her employer. But the employer contacted Caracas' father in the Philippines, protesting that his daughter was making false accusations and bringing shame on the entire family. Under this pressure, Caracas dropped the lawsuit and returned to the Philippines. Nothing happened to the employer, who works for the International Monetary Fund and repeatedly refused to discuss the case. So did officials at the IMF, who argue that this is "a private not an institutional matter."

Caracas and the other runaways are some of the thousands of foreign domestic workers who enter the United States legally to work for diplomats or executives with the World Bank, the IMF, the InterAmerican Development Bank, and other international agencies. Some employers are American. Most are from overseas. Their employees come with the help of special State Department programs that permit international bureaucrats and diplomats to "import" household help (housekeepers, nannies, cooks, gardeners, drivers, etc.) on either A-3 or G-5 visas. The visas are good for a year, and can be renewed as long as the servant is working for either a diplomat or an international civil servant. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

D.C.'S Indentured Servants
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.