Immigrant Miriam Martinez Solais, who fled Mexico for a better life, was arrested after complaining about the wages she had earned.
Solais, 28, came to America illegally. She had dreamed of coming to the country to feed and clothe her 3-year-old daughter Ruth, who she left behind with her family in Mexico, she told The News Observer during an interview on Nov. 5.
According to Roxboro, North Carolina, police, Solais is a thief who stole a stranger’s Social Security number in order to work as a cook at an Italian restaurant. However, federal labor officials say Solais is actually the victim.
Labor investigators are accusing Solais’ former boss of retaliating against her after she complained that she had been cheated out of thousands of dollars of wages, The News Observer reports. Solais' situation sheds light on the plight of many immigrants who come to the U.S. for a chance at a better life. Instead, many are forced to work in industries where bosses prey on their fear of deportation and consequently pay them low wages.
In 2012, for instance, 33 percent of undocumented citizens worked in the service industry -- much higher than the 17 percent of U.S. born citizens in that field, according to the Pew Research Center. The other major industries where undocumented citizens were over-represented compared to U.S. born citizens were construction and extraction (15 percent compared to 5 percent), production, installation and repair (14 percent compared to 9 percent), transportation and material moving (8 percent compared to 6 percent) and farming, fishing and forestry (4 percent compared to 0.5 percent).
Solais initially sought a lawyer to help settle the wages she said her boss, Giovanni Scotti D’Abbusco, owed her, The News Observer notes. When D’Abbusco’s lawyer discovered that Solais had submitted a false Social Security number with the form, Solais was arrested for identity fraud.
Solais was then charged with more than 20 counts of obtaining property by false pretenses.
Labor officials have helped petition for Solais to be granted a temporary protective visa, since she is a witness to an investigation. Currently, she is protected from deportation while her application is being processed.