Ahh, Branson. Dolly Parton, Baldknobbers, Yakov and Honest-to-Goodness Human Slaves


Branson at night is a scary place. Especially when you're there against your will. - PHOTO: JENNIFER SILVERBERG
  • Photo: Jennifer Silverberg
  • Branson at night is a scary place. Especially when you're there against your will.
Branson, to put it mildly, is an unusual place. As I reported back in 2007, the southwestern Missouri town is something like a '50s fantasy camp. Russian comedian Yakov Smirnoff keeps the Cold War alive. Dick Clark is still the ambassador of pop. And hayseeds like the Baldknobbers keep ol' time country music alive and kickin'.

And in Branson it's okay to alter history a bit in order to maintain the town's Leave it to Beaver tranquility. For example, I recall seeing just one black person during my three-day stay in the entertainment resort. He was working as a food server at Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede and dressed unbelievably (or was it ironically?) as a Confederate soldier. 

But, hey. I imagine it's hard to get any workers in Branson -- let alone Confederates. The town has grown exponentially over the years, and one can't help but wonder where all the people come from to work the town's endless number of theaters, hotels and all-you-can-eat buffets.

Then again, perhaps we now have an answer to that question. It came this week via a federal indictment in Kansas City.

The U.S. Attorney's office there has charged 12 people -- eight of them from Uzbekistan -- with luring illegal immigrants to the United States and making them work as "modern-day slaves."

Per the Associated Press:

Matt Whitworth, acting U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri, said Wednesday that the defendants used false information to obtain fake work visas for the foreign workers, who were then threatened with deportation while living in substandard apartments and working for inadequate pay.

The scheme ensnared hundreds of illegal immigrants who worked at hotels, construction sites, and in other businesses, many of them in the Kansas City area and in the southwest Missouri resort town of Branson, Whitworth said.

The employees allegedly were required to pay exorbitant rent to live in barely furnished apartments that "ensured that the workers did not make enough to repay their debt, purchase a plane ticket home or pay their own living expenses while in the United States," according to Whitworth.

Now, to me, this is just crucial and unusual. I mean it's one thing to be enslaved. But it's quite another thing to be enslaved in Branson!!!

To that end, I've got the perfect punishment for these slave handlers. Dress them up as rodeo clowns and throw them in the corral at Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede. Let a few longhorn steers administer justice.

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