Guestworker Programs “Close to Slavery”

A new study by the Southern Poverty Law Center of guestworker programs in the United States has concluded that the programs are essentially legalized forms of slavery or indentured servitude. The report, which examines existing guestworker programs, past programs such as the Bracero program, and the possibility of expanded guestworker programs as part of the current debate over immigration reform, concludes that if such programs are to exist they must be radically altered. The current guestworker programs, known as H-2 programs, allow employers to bring foreign workers into the United States, with around 121,000 workers brought in to the country in 2005. However, far from being treated as “guests,” these workers are “systematically abused and exploited” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The workers are not allowed even the most basic protection that exists in a competitive labor market–the ability to change jobs. Instead, guestworkers are bound to the employers that “import” them and complaints run the risk of deportation, blacklisting, or other forms of retaliation. What minimal legal protections that do exist are rarely enforced and without legal protections guestworkers are routinely cheated out of wages, forced to mortgage their futures to obtain low-wage temporary jobs, held virtually captive by employers or labor brokers that seize their documents, forced to live in deplorable conditions, and are denied medical benefits for on-the-job injuries. Workers have no prospect of becoming citizens and are instead essentially function as disposable workers that must leave the United States once their visas expire.

Author: mediamouse

Grand Rapids independent media // mediamouse.org