A few others also escaped, and community advocates eventually helped get the information to authorities. On Aug. 2, a multiagency task force led by the California Department of Industrial Relations raided the complex.
Some of the women were cowed by their captors' earlier descriptions of U.S. police and refused to open the door, which authorities hacked open with an ax. Others said they were overjoyed at their liberation.
"I was so happy," said Clinton, who had been held captive since April 1994. "I thought, 'Oh my God, I'm going home!' "
In the end, most of the workers decided to stay after Su and others successfully fought to win legal status for them. The workers annually celebrate Aug. 13 as their first full day of freedom, since that's when all of them were allowed to leave immigration detention facilities.
Clinton and the Chuai Ngans said that whatever travails they endured here, their American journeys have been well worth taking.
Clinton fell in love and married one of the volunteers who helped her; the couple has two sons.
She works the graveyard shift at Target stocking shelves and aims to attend community college as a steppingstone to a higher-paying job.
Her biggest dream is to sponsor her niece's immigration to the United States -- the daughter of her only sibling, who died in an auto accident.
Chuai Ngan, along with her husband, Win, have started two Thai restaurants and a massage parlor, own two North Hollywood homes and four cars, including a Mercedes-Benz.
They earn enough to send money home to relatives and have built a meeting hall, school lunchroom and library in their impoverished rice farming village in northeastern Thailand. The couple also sends school supplies and sports equipment to the village children.
Like countless immigrants before them, the former slave laborers expressed gratitude for the bountiful opportunities in their adopted homeland.
"American people have such big hearts," Clinton said, "and now I'm so proud to say I'm one of them."