DORAL, Fla. – Two alleged victims of abuse by a Doral restaurant owner wanted to speak out against their former boss, who was arrested earlier this week.
Felix Cortez, the old owner of Cocina de Martina in Doral, was arrested on Friday for aggravated stalking and battery.
The two employees told Local 10 News’ Liane Morejon that Cortez made working there a living nightmare, with unwanted sexual comments and touching occurring daily.
Local 10 News isn’t identifying the victims. To differentiate between their comments, they will be referred to as Victim 1 and Victim 2.
“He thought that because we were women or because we are undocumented that we were submissive,” Victim 1 said. “And he also took advantage because we needed the work.”
“He would graze his arms against my breasts, grab my stomach, when I leaned over he would grab my head,” said Victim 2. “When he would pass me, he would graze his hands against my rear end.”
Added Victim 1: “The man took advantage of the situation to touch me every chance he passed.”
Both women said Cortez’s wife, who also worked at the restaurant, was no help and dismissed their complaints.
“We did not have her support,” said Victim 1.
One victim was fed up enough to finally report the alleged abuse to police.
All of the victims were Colombian women who were hired despite not being legally allowed to work in the United States.
Some of the women said they put up with it for weeks, even months, because they were undocumented and needed money.
Tatiana Hernández is a staff attorney on Americans for Immigrant Justice’s Lucha Project, which helps immigrant victims of crime gain legal status and connect with resources.
She says protections exist for undocumented people who are victims of crime.
“Because they’re undocumented, that ends up being a vulnerability for individuals,” said Hernández. “The US government has seen it’s a vulnerability, they created relief for victims of crime who go forward and cooperated that they will be protected from being deported if they report the crime against them.
“It’s used to keep them in a position of being abused and it’s important for them to know they should report and can get access to help.”