A Department of Homeland Security investigation has raised concerns that diplomats from Saudi Arabia are bringing that country’s practices of human rights abuse and trafficking to the United States. The investigation comes after two Philippine women were removed Tuesday from a McLean, Virginia, house belonging to the armed forces of the Islamic monarchy.
The women, who were officially employees at the house, were removed from the home by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers after rumors of human trafficking surfaced, reports the Washington Examiner.
The women allegedly reached out to the DHS with complaints that they were being treated as indentured servants, even though they came to the United States legally to work. Human trafficking is currently not a felony in Virginia, although a new law changing that will go into effect July.
Migrant domestic workers in the Arab world are kept in a state of quasi-slavery, even in the more liberal Arab countries. The developed world’s human rights norms are unknown in Saudi Arabia, where Islamic law dating to the middle ages outlaws most routine freedoms for women and mandates second-class status for non-Muslims. Freedom House ranks the Saudi kingdom among the “worst of the worst” in its “Not Free” category.
Virginia Congressman Frank Wolf told WTOP that diplomatic immunity should not be taken into account. “We should tell those people they have to leave the country and I think the State Department ought to make it clear to the Saudi government that this must never happen again, period,” he said. “The people involved ought to be deported from the country. They should be persona non grata.”
An ICE spokesperson said there haven’t been any accusations of sexual abuse and that “the idea is that you’re held against your will.” They may have had their passports taken and and been overworked or given sub-par living conditions.
The women are still being interviewed and no charges have been pressed yet. The Saudi government has not commented.