Fruit Cart Vendors Falling Victim To Human Trafficking Network

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Eyewitness News discovered fruit cart vendors around town are part of a labor-trafficking network that originates in Los Angeles.

“Any time you see a vendor on the side of the road, there is a chance that person is being trafficked or debt bondage or peonage,” said Michael Fagans, coordinator for the Kern Coalition Against Human Trafficking.

Fruit cart workers are usually brought into the country by “coyotajes.” All the vendors Eyewitness News talked to were immigrants from Mexico who were offered $50 a day plus free housing in exchange for work.

“A coyote is someone who brings them across the border, usually for exuberant amounts of money … they know the techniques, they have certain strategies, and so they do this on a fairly regular basis,” said Fagans.

These coyotajes operate to a pretty strategic system. Once the immigrants are brought into the country, they live in homes, which are owned by their boss. One fruit cart worker said he lived with 10 others under one roof. Immigrants who work under one boss call themselves a team.

Every morning, fruit cart vendors wake up, prepare their carts and are dropped off at a location outside of Los Angeles. Vendors have been reported in numerous locations all across the state, including San Bernardino, Pasadena and Coalinga Park.

“The I-5 corridor literally goes all the way to Tijuana and to Vancouver, so every city up and down the I-5 is potentially on a labor trafficking route. Same thing with the 99,” said Fagans.

To read the full story by Kahtia Hall, on Bakersfield Now: Click Here