Shelter operator forced migrants to do construction work

Velia HG, a Protestant pastor who ran the Aposento Alto migrant shelter in northwest Juarez, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for human trafficking and forced labor.

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – An operator of a migrant shelter in Juarez, Mexico, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for human trafficking/forced labor.

A Chihuahua state judge on Monday also ordered Velia HG, a Protestant pastor, to pay $3,500 in damages to migrants she allegedly forced to carry out construction work on her property for free.

The conviction and sentence stem from a July 2022 police raid on the Aposento Alto (Upper Throne) shelter in the Lomas de Poleo neighborhood near the U.S. border wall in Sunland Park, New Mexico. The raid came after government officials who inspected the shelter heard testimony from guests saying the director forced them to work for her under threat of deportation, prosecutors say.

“Between October 2021 and April 2022, (Velia HG) forced the victims to carry out construction work for his profit. She also threatened to deny them accommodation or interfere in their immigration procedures, subjecting them to unjust living conditions that deprived them of their dignity,” the Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office said in a statement. after the conviction.

Velia HG has always denied these accusations. Mexican law prohibits authorities from releasing the full names of suspects.

A police officer takes a woman and her child away from the Aposento Alto migrant shelter in Juarez on Wednesday. The state of Chihuahua closed the shelter due to allegations of forced labor.

Aposento Alto is one of about 20 church-run migrant shelters that have opened in Juarez since 2018. Most are small facilities built behind Protestant churches and most rely on donations to provide food and pay utilities, Border Report reports over the past four years. established.

Although they do not grant them permits, state authorities inspect shelters to ensure that migrants are not living in poverty and that human rights are respected. The inspection at Aposento Alto initially resulted in a notification to the state Human Rights Commission. This led to a state police criminal investigation.