An attorney for a Nebraska man accused of running an immigrant-driven “slave labor” operation is asking judges to bar federal officials from using the term in court.
The suspected ringleader, Juan Pablo Sanchez Delgado, asked authorities to show mercy toward 16 of his family members and business associates. The group, faced with federal conspiracy charges, are accused of exploiting immigrants through a staffing agency called JP & Sons.
Omaha.com reports that lawyer Ross Pesek said in a Monday filing that his client had been “smeared” by comments made by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. Peseks seems to suggest that Delgado’s agency shouldn’t be considered part of any human trafficking network, and that the business and its tactics are completely legitimate.
Delgado, says his attorney, ran JP & Sons like any other staffing agency: fees and taxes were deducted from contracted workers’ paychecks, providing the firm with its profits.
Moreover, Pesek says Delgado is a respected businessman in O’Neill, Nebraska—the proprietor of a popular Mexican restaurant and other local brands. If Pesek’s to be believed, ICE just “wanted to take down 133 people and they needed someone to blame.”
That line is one ICE has strongly contested. Agency spokesman Shawn Neudauer claims the raid on O’Neill businesses was prompted by an ‘alleged criminal conspiracy.’ Neudauer used the term “slave labor” to describe the outfit’s operations. Immigrants were illegally brought into the country to work for facilities owned by Delgado and others but wound up owing money to “the company store.” Paychecks could only be cashed through their employer; taxes and fees were deducted but never paid.
As part of his Monday filing, Pesek asked a judge to bar federal officials from continuing to coin his client’s workforce as “slave labor.” He says Delgado isn’t currently charged with human slavery, and that none of the migrants working under JP & Sons “witnessed slavery, abuse or human trafficking because this is a false and defamatory allegation.”
If ICE continues to publicly declare Delgado a human trafficker and slaver, Pesek fears his client may be unable to obtain a fair trial.
According to another court filing partially reprinted by Omaha.com, Delgado said he set up his limited liability corporations with the help of Holt County attorneys. Delgado says they “taught me how business is done in rural America—which does not include slavery, abuse or theft.”
Delgado separately acknowledged that he himself had come to the United States illegally, paddling across the Rio Grande in an inflatable swimming pool. His crossing took place nearly 20 years; Delgado’s asked that his family and business partners not suffer on his account.
“The prosecution of my wife, sister, brother, son, sister-in-law, brother-in-law and niece is cruel. I beg for mercy for them,” Delgado said.