Mikulski offers aid to Estonian workers

Will ask for INS help to find `fair solution' for immigrants, she says


U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski has pledged to aid three young Estonian immigrants after they helped federal authorities build a case against leaders of a Woodbine church who forced the Estonians to clean apartments and a bookstore.

"I am deeply troubled by this case and the unfortunate situation surrounding how they were brought to this country," Mikulski said in a statement. "I will continue to work with the Immigration and Naturalization Service to encourage them to do everything in their power to bring about a fair solution."

Three church organizers were sentenced to jail terms in U.S. District Court this week after pleading guilty to charges they conspired to commit visa and immigration fraud. They had gone to Estonia, brought back a dozen young immigrants promised a religious education and forced them to labor at menial jobs.

Most of the Estonians have returned home or indicated they were going to leave, officials said.

Three remaining Estonians are living with a woman and her family in Perry Hall. That woman solicited Mikulski's help in trying to get permission for them to stay in the United States.

Though federal authorities have said the three youths can remain at least temporarily if they use court-ordered restitution money to finance their high school educations, one Estonian said that even with this money she might not be able to afford to finish school. It is unclear what would happen to the three after finishing school.

Neither the Estonians nor INS officials could be reached for comment yesterday.

Pub Date: 7/30/99

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