On the 20th anniversary of the liberation of 72 Thai nationals who were held captive in an El Monte sweatshop, Supervisor Hilda L. Solis honored El Monte Thai Garment Workers and Chancee Martorell from the Thai Community Development Center (Thai CDC) for helping liberate these workers.

In 1995, dozens of Thai nationals were held captive in an El Monte apartment complex that housed an illegal sweatshop. Immigrants from Thailand were forced to work behind a razor wire fence and under armed guards. Thai CDC, along with state and federal agencies, helped liberate these men and women.

“During the time I was a California State Senator, I worked with the Thai CDC to pursue justice for these workers, bringing them redress and restitution,” said Supervisor Solis. “With the help of the CDC, we convened hearings on their plight and working conditions. Their fate was one of the first major issues I fought for during my tenure in the State Senate.”

The case led to the founding of the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking in 1998 and to the passage by Congress of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act in 2000.

“Over the years, I’ve kept in touch with Chancee Martorell, the inspirational director of the Thai CDC who is an advocate and my friend. I’ve heard that many of the workers obtained U.S. citizenship and raised families, and some even started their own businesses,” added Supervisor Solis.