On Monday, October 6 at 2:00 p.m. ET, three experts will brief Congressional staff on the need for increased transparency within nonimmigrant visa programs that authorize employment, sometimes known as "guestworker" programs. Cathleen Caron, Executive Director of the Global Workers Justice Alliance, Daniel Costa, EPI's Director of Immigration Law and Policy Research, and Tiffany Williams from the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking, will discuss nonimmigrant visa programs, the need for more transparency, and the Transparency in Reporting to Protect American Workers and Prevent Human Trafficking Act.
WASHINGTON, D.C., February 5, 2013 – As the immigration debate heats up in the nation’s capitol, labor rights, migrant rights and anti-trafficking organizations have come together to speak out against immigrant worker abuse and to call on Congress to address their concerns as part of comprehensive reform of the nation’s broken immigration system.
Ameneé Siahpush is a Master of Public Administration candidate at NYU Wagner with an interest in the intersection of human rights, international public policy, and immigration issues. Internationally, she has explored human rights issues in Iran and has volunteered with community organizers for sustainability in Latin America.
Hector Waldemar Barrera Palma is a Global Workers Defender Network defender from Zacapa, Guatemala. He is a lawyer from the University of San Carlos of Guatemala. A public servant for 24 years, he is currently serving as the Human Rights Ombudsman of the Department of Zacapa in Guatemala. Waldemar is a former union leader of the Guatemalan judiciary, and a human rights professor at various local universities.
"It is important to recall, particularly in these turbulent times, the fundamental role that migrants play in strengthening the global economy. Migrants contribute to economic growth and human development; they enrich societies through cultural diversity, knowledge and technology exchange; and they improve demographic balance in aging populations.
While for many, migration is a positive and empowering experience, many others endure human rights violations, xenophobia, and exploitation."
Gilberto Soto, a union organizer in New Jersey of the Teamster’s Port Division, was carrying out a campaign to build a solidarity network between transportation unions and workers across much of the Americas when he was assassinated in November of 2004, outside his parents’ home in his native El Salvador. Gilberto organized thousands of truck drivers at ports from Newark to Boston, and it was suspected that his murder was part of a concerted effort to throttle union activity in El Salvador.
U.S. employers use the H-2B visa to bring 66,000 temporary non-agricultural foreign workers into U.S low wage industries every year. Over the years, many workers have suffered abuses, sometimes suffering such exploitative conditions that the U.S government has extended them protections as human trafficking victims. Global Workers has worked on many cases of abused and disposed H-2B temporary guest workers.
Global Workers, in collaboration with the American University, Washington College of Law, Immigrant Justice Clinic submitted a report to the UN Committee on Migrant Workers, critiquing Mexico’s track record on portable justice for migrant workers.
Global Workers has been increasingly concerned with conditions under which foreigners come to the U.S. to work on temporary visas. Some visas such as the H-2 program are fairly well understood, however, the J-1 visa, envisioned for “cultural exchanges” has been increasingly misused to bring in young foreigners to work in sometimes appalling conditions in low wage industries.
Thousands of Central and South American immigrants passing through Mexico have been kidnapped, and sometimes even murdered. Father Alejandro Solalinde Guerra, Catholic priest and director of thePastoral de Movilidad Humana Pacifico Sur del Episcopado Mexicano (Catholic Pastoral Care Centre for Migrants in Southwestern Mexico), has been under attack for dedicating his life to sheltering migrants from the criminal gangs who exploit and abuse them. On December 16, 2010, a group of allegedly 20-50 migrants was dragged off a train and disappeared.
The mission of the Global Workers Justice Alliance is to combat worker exploitation by promoting portable justice for transnational migrants through a cross-border network of worker advocates and resources.
Global Workers coined the term portable justice to describe the right and ability of transnational migrant workers to access justice in the countries of employment even after they have departed for their home countries.