“A miracle—immensely moving, powerful, beautiful, and true. It reads like a binge-worthy thriller, told with ridiculous skill and Saket Soni’s gigantic heart pounding audibly on every page.”
—Naomi Klein, New York Times bestselling author of On Fire
In early 2007, Saket Soni, a 28-year-old, Indian-born community organizer received an anonymous phone call from an Indian migrant worker inside a Mississippi labor camp. He and 500 other men were living in squalor in Gulf Coast “man camps,” surrounded by barbed wire, watched by armed guards, crammed into cold trailers with putrid portable toilets, forced to eat moldy bread and frozen rice. Worse, lured by the promise of good work and green cards, the men had desperately scraped together up to $20,000 each to apply for this “opportunity” to rebuild oil rigs after Hurricane Katrina, putting their families into impossible debt. During a series of clandestine meetings, Soni and the workers devise a bold plan. In The Great Escape, Soni traces the workers’ extraordinary escape, their march on foot to Washington DC, and their 31-day hunger strike to bring attention to their cause. Along the way, ICE agents try to deport the men, company officials work to discredit them, and politicians avert their eyes. But none of this shakes the workers’ determination to win their dignity and keep their promises to their families.
Weaving a deeply personal journey with a riveting tale of 21st-century forced labor, Soni takes us into the hidden lives of the foreign workers the US increasingly relies on for cheap skilled labor to rebuild after climate disasters. The Great Escape is the astonishing story of one of the largest human trafficking cases in modern American history—and the workers’ heroic journey for justice.