Not a Lexis Advance subscriber? Try it out for free.

Immigration Law

H-2 Visas In Flux - Reform or Status Quo?

"[A]ccording to Daniel Costa of Economic Policy Institute (EPI), it's unclear what extent the new [joint DHS / DOL Interim Final] rule would strengthen standards or maintain the status quo:

[E]mployers are keeping their fingers crossed that DOL/DHS reissue as much of the substance of the 2009 rules as possible, while worker advocates are pushing to have as much of the 2012 rules as possible (preferably all of them).... But the regs still don’t do enough—much more is needed.

Though the Labor Department has generally moved toward expanding labor protections for guestworkersaccording to EPI, it's uncertain how strongly the new standards would be enforced; historically, loopholes and lax oversight that have let companies ranging from seafood packers to fairgrounds pay substandard wages, eroding working conditions for guestworkers and US-based workers alike.

The impasse surrounding the H-2B rules follows numerous scandals involving massive exploitation of service-industry guest workers, along with ongoing abuses in the agricultural guestworker program, H-2A (other guestworker programs have been similarly tainted by scandals.) A recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) documented lax enforcement in these programs, which absorb tens of thousands of low-wage workers from Latin America and Asia each year.

GAO’s investigation revealed numerous recruitment abuses, including “third-party recruiters charging workers prohibited fees; not providing information about a job, when required, such as wage level; or providing false information about job conditions.” Even when employers were temporarily blacklisted for violating program rules, GAO found there had been very limited tracking of the companies, potentially giving them free reign to violate again in the future.

By the start of May, the government is expected to issue the new rules, and it remains to be seen whether workers material circumstances will significantly improve. But they may see additional safeguards against retaliation, which would encourage a growing trend among guestworkers to organize and agitate for fairer labor conditions and long-term immigration reform. These efforts will be assisted by CDM and the National Guestworkers Alliance, which are developing transnational labor networks that organize and educate workers about their rights on both sides of the border.

Guestworkers are slowly growing more conscious of how they fit into a transnational economic arbitrage. Despite their position at the margins of the global economy, their struggles for equity are central to the future of a globalized labor movement." - Michelle Chen, Apr. 3, 2015.