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Judge Allows Maid’s Enslavement Claims

(CN) - A federal judge in San Diego refused to dismiss a Mexican housekeeper's claim that a married couple paid coyotes to smuggle her into the United States, where they held her captive for six years and forced her to work more than 100 hours a week in their home.

Samad and Yvonne Attisha allegedly had their secretary hire coyotes, or human smugglers, to smuggle Rosa Romero Hernandez into the United States in 2002 for $1,500. She says she had to work for free for a year to pay off her transportation fee.

The Attishas put her to work "cooking, cleaning, babysitting, doing laundry, yard work and all housekeeping duties," according to the lawsuit Hernandez filed last October.

She allegedly worked more than 100 hours a week, seven days a week, for less than minimum wage.

The Attishas claimed that most of Hernandez's claims were filed too late, but Chief U.S. District Judge Irma Gonzalez pointed out that, assuming the claims are true, Hernandez wasn't able to sue while she was under the Attishas' control.

"Plaintiff alleges she was confined to defendants' house, unable to leave and, consequently, unable to pursue any legal remedies available to her because of circumstances beyond her control."

Hernandez has filed suit less than two years after her rescue and less than eight years after she was first brought to the Attishas' home. Given the allegations, the lawsuit fell "well within" the statutes of limitations, Gonzalez ruled.

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