Wednesday, April 24, 2019

H-2A Visa Helps Farmers but also Widens Door for Labor Abuses

By Camilla Benoni, Ben Bira, Gustavo Boldrini, Meggie Davenport & Sam Schlegel

The co-authors are students in Loyola's Human Trafficking Seminar. This piece originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Trump administration recently announced major changes to the H-2A visa application process, making it easier than ever for U.S. farmers to bring foreign workers into the country. The H-2A program allows farm employers to request certification from the U.S. Department of Labor to have foreign workers admitted “temporarily to the United States to perform agricultural labor…of a temporary or seasonal nature.” The department certified almost 243,000 jobs to be filled with H-2A workers in 2018, with California accounting for roughly 20,000 (8 percent) of all H-2A jobs.

Streamlining the H-2A process has been a priority for both political parties, and the announcement early this month was heralded as a victory for farmers. But the new application process raises human trafficking-related concerns: The H-2A program is expanding rapidly, and enforcement of employers’ obligations is not increasing accordingly. The simplified immigration process is troublesome, as H-2A visas are present in a majority of labor trafficking cases.

The origins of the H-2A visa lie in the infamous bracero program. During World War II, farmers faced severe labor shortages, and the federal government responded by creating the program, authorizing the entry of Mexican nationals to fill the demand for cheap farm labor.

Lured north by recruiters with promises of high wages, housing and return transportation to Mexico, the life of a farmworker was far different from what most braceros had been promised. Abuse, poor working conditions and lack of access to health care were common, prompting braceros to strike on numerous occasions — with little success.

The bracero program ended in 1964, but its progeny lives on in the H-2A visa, making conditions ripe for debt-peonage and forced labor.

Read the full op-ed>>

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.