CDM is disgusted that the House Judiciary Committee approved Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s exploitative Agricultural Guestworker Act (AG Act), an anti-immigrant, anti-worker proposal that would further increase the vulnerability of farmworkers in the United States. The AG Act aims to create a new H-2C guestworker program that would slash wages, limit access to justice, and weaken protections for migrant workers.
This despicable legislation would commodify workers, serving business interests while failing to provide fair labor protections for the people on whom they depend. The AG Act would exacerbate the flaws in the existing H-2A agricultural program, a legacy of the notorious Bracero Program that is rife with abuses including wage theft and economic coercion. The AG Act would further weaken oversight of worker protections by transferring responsibility for the program from the Department of Labor to the Departments of Agriculture and Homeland Security. Under the H-2C visa program, workers would have an increased risk for forced labor, exploitation and other abuses; and migrant workers’ ability to defend themselves would be restricted.
The AG Act would impose financial burdens on migrant farmworkers in order to discourage them from leaving abusive workplaces. “Migrant workers would be tied to their U.S. employers, who would be required to withhold a percentage of workers’ wages as a bond,” said Elizabeth Mauldin, Policy Director at CDM. The proposed legislation would also allow employers to deduct expenses from their paychecks, including transportation and equipment. “This exploitative bill must be stopped in its tracks,” she said.
The AG Act eases the way for unscrupulous employers and recruiters to abuse workers who pick fruits and vegetables, process poultry and maintain our forests. By approving the AG Act out of committee, the bill’s proponents have dismissed the decades of incremental efforts toward protecting migrant workers. We urge the House of Representatives to put an end to this contemptible legislation that would damage our communities across borders.
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About Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc.
Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. (CDM) envisions a world where migrant workers’ rights are respected and laws and policies reflect their voices. Through education, outreach, and leadership development; intake, evaluation, and referral services; litigation support and direct representation; and policy advocacy; CDM empowers Mexico-based migrant workers to defend and protect their rights as they move between their home communities in Mexico and their workplaces in the United States. www.cdmigrante.org