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Austin Spanish immersion preschool founder accused of labor trafficking; lawyers deny allegations

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is accusing Austin Eco Bilingual School founder Adriana Rodriguez of labor trafficking.
Credit: Jackson Grimm

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Wednesday announced that he has filed a lawsuit against a local Spanish immersion preschool, accusing its founder of labor trafficking.

Paxton named Austin Eco Bilingual School's founder, Adriana Rodriguez, claiming that victims were placed in a "dangerously mismanaged" day care that "showed total disregard for immigration, labor and child licensing laws."

The attorney general claims that foreign-born employees were "lured" to the state with "promises of lawful status, a decent salary and a rewarding career." Instead, he said they were instead victimized by an "unscrupulous employer" who trafficked them for their work.  

“Labor trafficking, like all human trafficking, is a manipulative and despicable form of evil. I will not stand by while traffickers use the promise and prosperity of Texas to recruit and exploit victims,” said Paxton. “Ending human trafficking in Texas is one of my top priorities, and no trafficker will be allowed to operate schools and victimize the people who teach and care for our youngest, most vulnerable members of society.”

Paxton said that Rodriguez sabotaged and controlled employees and their ability to work legally in the U.S. and threatened to have them arrested, deported or separated from their children if they did not continue to work. He said this happened for far less pay than they were promised and sometimes no pay at all.

"Rodriguez kept her victims quiet and under control, which sometimes included forcing them to hide in closets or flee when child care licensing inspectors arrived," the attorney general's office said in a press release. "She also constantly kept her employees from complaining by highlighting her connections to high-ranking law enforcement and other government officials."

Paxton said one employee quoted Rodriguez as saying, "I am a very important person, and I can destroy you whenever I choose."

Paxton's release also states Rodriguez was once named the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Businesswoman of the Year.

Susan P. Burton and Randy Leavitt, attorneys representing the defendants in this lawsuit, released the following statement:

"Finally, the Attorney General mustered the courage to file a pleading that allows Austin Eco Bilingual School to now defend itself in court against these unfounded allegations. These allegations are the same nonsense that the AG has been pursuing, at taxpayer expense, for over two years. Austin Eco Bilingual School will now have access to the courts and will be fully vindicated at the end of the day. This Spanish immersion school has employed hundreds of employees over the past 13 years, has provided exceptional educational experiences with high accreditations to hundreds of students and parents and many, if not most, of these educators and parents will be supportive of Adriana and Enrique Rodriguez. We welcome the opportunity to try this case."

If you or someone you know may have been a victim of labor trafficking, you can contact the Office of the Attorney General, Human Trafficking and Transnational/Organized Crime Section at 512-463-1646 or humantrafficking@oag.texas.gov. 

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