Blog

Washington, D.C. - June 6

Global Workers Launches Visas, Inc. 

Replacing future immigrants and Americans with temporary foreign workers

Economic Policy Institute

 
Global Workers travelled to Washington, D.C. to cohost a forum surrounding the release of the new report Visas, Inc: Corporate Control and Policy Incoherence in the U.S. Foreign Temporary Labor System.  The event held at Economic Policy Institute was completely full, with 80 attendees. 
 
Cathleen Caron gave an overview of the organization and explained that Global Workers set out to conduct this research due to the lack of information and what seemed to be a shift from "a country of permanent immigrants, to a country of foreign temporary labor, where workers are not allowed to stay after having worked in the country.” She shared her experience of having come across advocates who worked on specific visas, or specific issues within different visa categories, and her realization that there was no comprehensive outlook on the bigger picture, on this "alphabet soup” of visas. Ashwini Sukthankar, author of the report, provided further insight into the reports findings, reiterating the lack of information available on the process and proceedings of the various visas. 
 
The final presentation by Kanthi Salgadu, a trafficking victim survivor who participates in CAST,  told her story of exploitation and abuse as a domestic worker brought in on a B-1 visa. The primary intention of this visa is to allow foreign nationals to enter the U.S. for business purposes, with two exceptions, one of which allows the primary visa holder to be accompanied by a "personal servant,” but there is a real lack of protection for this exception. Kanthi was enslaved, expected to work excessive hours, sometimes from 4 am to 2 in the afternoon the next day, with no days off, and no pay. She was not allowed to answer the phone, open the door, or go outside. When company visited the home, she was locked in a room, out of sight. Finally, a concerned neighbor called immigration and she was rescued. 
 
Kanthi's story highlighted the real need for this report. Panelists stressed the recommendations of the report: the need to look at the system as a whole, greater transparency, and better Department of Labor oversight for all visas that permit work in the U.S., to name a few.  
Finally, Daniel Costa, Immigration Policy Analyst, discussed the overall impact of the temporary foreign worker visa system on U.S. economy and moderated the events’ proceedings. 
 
The audience was a lively group that presented a series of challenging questions, one of which was a quantitative question of where the numbers were obtained for the report. There was concern that the figure the report used to estimate the number of temporary foreign workers in the country in one given year of between 700-900 thousand workers was too low. Ashwini explained that the data was based on visa issuances and did not account for workers who have visas for longer than one year.  She stressed the larger point that the lack of disaggregated data (meaning that one visa may have multiple sub categories that are not distinguished in the public data)  make it nearly impossible to quantify how many workers are actually in the country at any given time. Cathleen echoed this response by pointing out that the fact that no one in our government can respond to the question of how many temporary foreign workers are in our country at any given moment or who is employing them is a true testament to the lack of coordination and transparency.  
 
Read the next entry for information about the Congressional Briefing and congressional meetings (June 9). 
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