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Amendments seeking to prevent human trafficking and abuse of workers recruited abroad passes Senate Judiciary Committee

Amendments seeking to prevent human trafficking and abuse of workers recruited abroad passes Senate Judiciary Committee

Washington, D.C. – The Senate Judiciary Committee debating the bipartisan immigration reform plan approved today three amendments by U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) that would provide protections against abuse and fraud involving temporary workers recruited abroad. The amendments would cover workers recruited in all of the temporary worker programs – H1B, H2B and the new W visas for “low-wage workers” and W3 and W4 agricultural worker visa program.

Working with the International Labor Recruitment Working Group, a coalition of immigrant rights groups and unions, including the United Farm Workers, Sen. Blumenthal drafted the amendments as follows:

Amendment 3 “ARM13595” – Establishes private right of action against foreign labor recruitment agencies found responsible for recruitment violations.

Amendment 4 “ARM13597” − Requires the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to consult with the Secretary of Labor regarding regulations, policies, and procedures monitoring recruitment of foreign guest workers.

Amendment 5 “ARM13608” – Restores disclosures required for recruiters; adds in a requirement for employers to disclose financial arrangement with Farm Labor Contractors and other Labor Contractors; and seeks data on subcategory level (previously only at the category level).

"Today's vote is a positive step forward," said Maria Machuca, UFW spokeswoman. "We are hopeful that these amendments will help us fight human trafficking, abuse and fraud against foreign workers seeking to come to work on U.S. farms under the proposed new non-immigrant agricultural visa program." 

Currently, the DHS, which oversees foreign farm worker recruitment agencies, doesn't even disclose the list of agencies certified to operate abroad. Thus making it easy for fraudulent agencies to take advantage of desperate workers looking for jobs in the U.S.

Many foreign citizens recruited for jobs under temporary work visas are charged high recruitment fees to obtain U.S. employment. To afford those fees and transportation costs, workers often borrow money from the recruiters, frequently at high interest rates.  In some cases, recruiters misrepresent the amount and conditions of work that will be available in the U.S.  Upon arrival in the U.S., these indebted workers are too fearful of losing their jobs and being deported to challenge unfair or illegal conduct.