Photo: Temporary Migrant Workers Exploited
Unions and human rights defense organizations on Tuesday denounced before a panel of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights what they describe as the “systematic exploitation” of immigrant temporary workers in the United States.
Workers who come seasonally to the United States to perform jobs in sectors from agriculture to traveling carnivals suffer violations of their rights to liberty, personal security and non-discrimination, witnesses said.
“The exploitation is systematic,” Elizabeth Freed, the spokesperson for the Transnational Legal Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, told the gathering.
Freed said that between 70 percent and 80 percent of those workers come from Mexico and, in many cases, they are not paid the agreed-upon amount for their labor.
According to a survey by the Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, 52 percent of 220 workers recruited in Mexico with H-2 visas never saw a written contract from their employers.
In addition, 58 percent of them were forced to pay a fee for being recruited, which is illegal.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government sent to the hearing a delegation comprised of representatives from the Departments of State, Homeland Security and Labor, who admitted “irregularities” existed while they assured those present that they are working to eliminate any abuses.
Also presented at the hearing was the videotaped testimony of Mexican Leonardo Cortes, from Zacatecas, who has come to the United States in at least six different years to perform seasonal work.
“First, they told us that we would earn between $7.50 and $8.00 per hour. However, once we had the visa, the amoung changed to $500 every two weeks. Finally, we earned $240 for 17 days of work,” he said.