July 14, 2005
Florida lawmakers are looking into allegations that several of the state's farm labor camps are running what one U.S. attorney calls modern-day slave operations.
For the most part, the workers are U.S. citizens, and many are homeless African-American men recruited from shelters and soup kitchens. Lured by promises of work, they hop into vans, only to find themselves in fenced farm camps, forced into debt by their bosses and sometimes paid with drugs instead of money.
Law enforcement officials insist tracking down and punishing the camp owners is a priority -- but follow-up raids are rare, and many of the camps are extremely remote. Charities try to help those that want to flee the farms, taking food and clothes to workers in the field.