Experts applaud the US opening its doors to more seasonal workers, but demand guarantees

Recently the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced that it works for speed up the H-2B visa process to bring temporary non-agricultural workers and that it does so in conjunction with the issuing countries, however experts consulted by the Voice of america -although they welcomed the announcement- they have pointed to the need for greater protection by employers.

“The important thing in this is that it emphasizes the way in which visas can be made more quickly available to people living in Central America; the adhesion of Haiti is very important, but in this case the point or direction for people of today from Guatemala, Salvador and Honduras continues to prevail, “said Ariel Ruiz, public policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), with headquarters in Washington DC.

On December 20, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced an increase of 6,000 visas in the H-2B category for these four countries. The news aligns with the immigration policy of President Joe Biden, who used it as the spearhead of his electoral campaign and has defended it against criticism from his Republican opponents.

Homeland Security stressed in its statement that for the first time it will supplement the H-2B limit with additional visas in the first half of fiscal year 2022.

The White House strategy is deployed precisely when the Department of Labor has issued a report indicating that American workers continue to leave their jobs, now at a record 4.5 million jobs, 370,000 of these resignations occurred in the month of November.

USAID’s announcement emphasizes that its management with the Central American governments is driven by the need to “increase opportunities to legally fill temporary jobs in the United States, and will support the US economic recovery.”

The VOA He sent a request for comments to different government agencies on whether this support would be based on an increase in the number of visas or they have similar measures planned in the future, but did not receive a response.

The foreign ministries of El Salvador and Honduras did not respond to requests for information on joint work with USAID.

Irregularities in hiring

Questions also arise when comparing DHS data that as of August 2021 at least 1.5 million irregular immigrants had been intercepted at the southern border, since October 2020.

“6,500 visas give a message of opportunity for those people who are seeking to migrate to the United States and want to do so legally and thus reduce the danger that they would find if they did so irregularly,” Ruiz said in his analysis.

Daniella Burgi-Palomino is co-director of the Latin American Working Group (LAWG), an institution based in Washington DC in an interview with the VOA He insisted on the concrete steps that the White House must take so that “the problems that these visas have had in previous years do not repeat themselves.”

“If it is not resolved in the way that these visas have caused human rights violations, specifically the labor rights of workers are not really going to contribute or benefit people in the way that is expected,” he said.

The analyst cited allegations of violations of the rights of workers benefiting from H-2B visas, as well as reports from one of LAWG’s partner organizations, the Center for Migrant Rights (CDM) based in Mexico and the United States. .

In July 2020, for example, the CDM issued a statement in which he realized that together with a law firm he would represent five Mexican workers who claimed to feel harmed by the Precision 2000 construction company, based in Atlanta, Georgia, due to excessive collection of the price of housing rent, overcrowding in the place accommodation and others.

“H-2B workers often live in substandard housing provided by their employer, face threats of deportation, and lack the freedom to move. When they speak out, they often face retaliation with little support to defend themselves: H-2B workers generally cannot access federally funded legal services, ”said Ben Botts, CDM’s Chief Legal Officer, at the time.

Strengthen human rights

In response to the VOAHomeland Security referred to its December 20 statement, emphasizing that “the proposed rule will incorporate the efficiencies of the program and protect against the exploitation of H-2B workers.”

Burgi-Palomino added that “The contribution of emigrants to the United States economy has always been very strong,” especially in these almost two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, he believes that it would be necessary to observe what the effort of US government entities for tackling worker rights violations.

It would be one strategy among many others, he settled, because if not “far from helping people who are in great need in Central America, it will simply worsen their situation and return them to the same situation in which they were previously.”

The United States Department of State was not available to request comment from the Voice of america.

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