A new investigation reveals that a North Carolina fundamentalist church allegedly used student and tourist visas to bring foreign nationals to the United States as slaves.
A report by the Associated Press claims the Word of Faith Fellowship used the U.S. visa program to import Brazilians as slaves, allegedly recruiting them through their Latin America churches.
“They trafficked us up here. They knew what they were doing. They needed labor and we were cheap labor — hell, free labor,” Andre Oliveira, who told the AP that he was brought to the U.S. by the Word of Faith Fellowship church on a visa.
“They kept us as slaves,” Oliveira told the AP. “We were expendable. We meant nothing to them. Nothing. How can you do that to people — claim you love them and then beat them in the name of God?”
Oliveira said he was forced to work 15 hour days with no pay and that if he strayed from the church schedule, he would be beaten or shamed in front of other members of the church. Oliveira also said that once he arrived to the U.S. on the visa, his passport was taken from him.
Tourist and student visas to the U.S. are meant to be temporary, but foreign nationals overstay their visas often and are not found by immigration officials until years later.
While tourist visa-holders are not allowed to work, student visa-holders are allowed to take jobs. The allegations of slave labor being used by the Word of Faith Fellowship church could shed light on the lack of oversight on visa-holders and their sponsors, an issue that pro-American worker advocates have argued for decades.
In one case, the foreign nationals being used as slave labor under the visa programs tried to get U.S. authorities involved but they reportedly never responded to the whistleblowers.
A total of 17 foreign nationals revealed to the AP that they allegedly were used as slaves by Word of Faith Fellowship.
John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart Texas. Follow him on Twitter at @JxhnBinder.