Today, 59 leading human rights scholars across Mexico, the United States and Canada filed a supplement under the US-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA) demanding that the US government end discrimination in its temporary guestworker visa programs. The supplement supports the first petition against the U.S. government under the agreement, in which migrant workers Maritza Pérez and Adareli Ponce denounced systemic discrimination in guestworker programs. This filing is part of a trinational campaign led by Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. (CDM), a transnational workers’ rights organization.
The coalition of scholars filed the supplement to highlight additional arguments under international law regarding the US government’s obligations to ensure migrant worker women’s rights to equality and nondiscrimination. These rights are enshrined in the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its Follow-Up and reflect other regional and international human rights norms. In a supplement filed under the USMCA, the scholars argued that pervasive discrimination against migrant women violates international law and the US government’s legal obligations under the trade agreement.
In early May, following CDM’s petition—and after years of advocacy—the Mexican government sent a letter to the US government requesting cooperative activities to address issues affecting farmworkers and protein processing workers. These are the industries where Maritza Pérez and Adareli Ponce, the two named petitioners, worked.
“The stories of women seeking access to and employed through U.S. temporary work visa programs reveal the pervasiveness of the multiple discriminations women are subjected to throughout all stages of the labor migration process, at the hands of recruiters, employers, and through a legal aid system that effectively denies migrant women access to justice when their rights are violated. The United States must take action consistent with its obligations under international human rights law to ensure women’s equality and non-discrimination in opportunity and employment alike.” said principal drafter Sarah Paoletti, a University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School Practice Professor of Law and the Director of the Transnational Legal Clinic. Paoletti is also CDM’s Board President.
Today’s supplemental filing builds pressure on both governments to reform international labor recruitment and the H-2 programs—anticipating Vice President Harris’s trip to Mexico next week and the regional negotiations around labor migration that will take place during her visit.
In a second supplemental filing, an additional four organizations joined in the underlying complaint.