Letters: Diplomatic Immunity, Domestic Slaves

A Survivor of Diplomatic Immunityemail-icon

Thank you for “Trafficking Women to Foreign Embassies in U.S.” (March). Most people are very naive about diplomatic immunity and have no idea that diplomats traffic women as domestic slaves and sometimes sexually abuse them. I became aware of this grievous injustice more than 30 years ago when I helped a 56-year-old woman I met in Cuernavaca, Mexico. This woman, Debora Martinez, told me she had escaped from the Mexican Embassy in Paris, where she had been employed as a chef. She said that she had been hired in Mexico and promised her “dream job” as a chef at the Mexican Embassy in Paris. We became good friends and later I found her a job. Her dream turned into a nightmare after she arrived in a fashionable residence near the Bois de Boulogne. The ambassador seized her passport so she couldn’t leave and failed to pay for more than six months of hard labor. In that time, they worked her like a slave. She could speak English, however, and her captors feared she might complain about her ill treatment and embarrass them. So they eventually returned her passport. She returned to Mexico, but never received any wages, nor the paid vacation and Grand Diploma French Cuisine Course they had promised her, which enticed her to leave Mexico and accept the embassy job in France. After reading your exposé, I realize Debora was a lucky survivor of “diplomatic immunity.”

—Bernadette McNulty, Apple Valley, California