“Dear Judge, I am writing to tell you my story,” said a teenage girl on the witness stand in a Los Angeles courtroom in March, her soft voice barely audible as she read a letter she typed.
She described how Dora Alicia Valle smuggled her into California from El Salvador, forcing her to work in a Pacoima restaurant for meager pay. She took orders and washed dishes, she said. She cleaned vegetables and mopped floors.
On weekends, she worked morning to midnight, and hours into the night on school days.
“I still have bad dreams, and I get sad when I think too much,” the teen said, according to a court transcript. “I was very afraid of Alicia. When she got mad, she would hit me and make me feel bad.”
As California lawmakers aim to curb the illegal trade of sex and labor before adjourning the legislative session at the end of August, at least one bill seeks to protect such young, vulnerable victims at the center of human trafficking cases in court.