'FRONTLINE: Trafficked in America'
(DVD / PG / 2018 / PBS)
Overview: 'Frontline: Trafficked in America' is the inside story of Guatemalan teens forced to work against their will in Ohio. An investigation of labor trafficking exposes a criminal network that exploited undocumented minors, companies profiting from forced labor, and the US government's role.
DVD Verdict: 'Frontline: Trafficked in America' is yet another highly-indepth documentary that, this time, shines new light on a labor trafficking case in which Guatemalan teens were forced by a third-party contractor to work against their will at Trillium Farms in Ohio, a major egg producer.
The investigative team exposes a criminal network that exploited undocumented minors, the companies who profited from their forced labor, and how U.S. government policies and practices helped to deliver some teens directly to their traffickers.
Made in collaboration with the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California, Berkeley, the documentary takes viewers to the highlands of Guatemala where some of the teens are from, to the trailer park in Marion County where the teens were made to live and to places in the United States where human trafficking continues, according to a preview of the documentary provided to the Star.
Seven people have been indicted in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio in connection with the forced labor ring uncovered in Marion County, three of whom have been convicted of forced labor charges and been sentenced to time in federal prison. Three others were convicted of immigration offenses.
Federal prosecutors identified eight minors and two adults who were forced into virtual slavery and ordered to work at Trillium's egg farms, cleaning coops and moving, vaccinating and debeaking chickens, according to court records.
The documentary goes to a Guatemalan village, where the filmmakers talked with the parents of one of the smuggled teens and with the mother of the smuggler — Aroldo Castillo-Serrano, one of the people convicted of forced labor charges — who lived just down the street.
The film also describes the checkered history of the Marion County-area egg farm now operated by Trillium Farms, which as the Frontline documentary details, was formerly owned by egg mogul Austin "Jack" DeCoster, whose facilities racked up millions of dollars in fines for violations of public health and labor standards and who was recently sentenced to prison time in connection with a salmonella outbreak linked to his egg facilities.
The film also touches on the worker shortages that operations like egg farms face. John Glessner, a former egg farm executive and former associate of DeCoster, told Frontline that one of the biggest issues was finding people to do the work.
Gripping and revealing, 'Trafficked in America' presents a rare look inside the hidden reality of labor trafficking in the United States. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.