FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 31, 2022
Contact: Evy Peña (firstname.lastname@example.org)
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO — Today, 373 days after filing their original petition under the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement agreement, migrant worker women and a binational coalition filed a third supplement to the complaint. The supplement details the continued sex-based discrimination within the H-2 visa program as well as the lack of progress by the U.S. government in enforcing its labor laws since the petition was filed on March 23, 2021. Formed by more than 153 signatories — 125 organizations and 28 leading academics, the coalition is led by the binational organization Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. (CDM).
By abrogating its responsibilities under the USMCA as well as failing to respond to the original complaint, the petitioners contend that the U.S. continues to willfully tolerate sex-based discrimination during recruitment, sexual harassment, and barriers to justice faced by migrant worker women in the H-2 programs.
In testimonials in today’s filing, migrant worker women detail:
- Sexual harassment, intimidation and attempted sexual assault by supervisors and recruiters.
- Social media advertisements for job opportunities open only to male applicants.
- Going through a lengthy and expensive application process only to be told that women “can’t make it in the field” — despite the applicant having 18 years of experience performing farm labor.
- Channeling women into lower paying jobs in crab houses as opposed to the more lucrative opportunities offered to men for H-2A farm work.
“Since we filed the Public Communication, I have seen hundreds of men go to the United States on an H-2A visa; however, I have not seen a single woman obtain these job opportunities,” said Adareli Ponce Hernandez, a co-petitioner and member of CDM’s Migrant Defense Committee. In the supplement, Ponce Hernandez states that she has been denied access to job opportunities several times since filing the complaint last year. “I still hope to go to work in the United States to be able to support my family and fulfill my dreams. But if the US government doesn’t push employers and recruiters to end discrimination, things won’t change for migrant women.”
The supplement was filed days before the Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh’s visit to Mexico on April 4th. Secretary Walsh will hold bilateral meetings with Mexican government officials to discuss labor issues, including this complaint. Thus far, the U.S. government has not made any policy changes to remedy these violations or even a timeline or work plan for addressing them.
“While the U.S. government sits on our complaint, migrant women continue to face sex discrimination. The government’s continued failure to act violates its legal obligations under the trade agreement,” said Rachel Micah-Jones, founder and executive director at CDM.
Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers arrive in the U.S. every year to work on H-2 visas in industries including landscaping, agriculture, construction and seafood processing — the vast majority from Mexico. Due to the discrimination in recruitment and hiring, only 3% of H-2A visas (for agricultural work) were issued to women in 2018. Women are funneled into lower-paying jobs under the H-2B visa (for non-agricultural work) that place them at higher risk of gender-based violence.
The USMCA, which came into effect on July 1, 2020, includes an enforceable labor chapter that explicitly mentions migrant workers’ rights. Article 23.3 of the USMCA declares that parties adopt and maintain rights including “the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.” Article 23.8 establishes that parties must ensure that migrant workers are protected under its labor laws. In the U.S.,Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids discrimination in recruitment and hiring as well as prohibits employers from discriminating against a worker based on sex “with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges” of employment.
Today’s filing is the third supplement to the original USMCA complaint. In June 2021, 59 leading human rights scholars across Mexico, the United States and Canada highlighted additional regional and international human rights norms that ensure women’s rights to equality and nondiscrimination, including the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.
The USMCA complaint outlines suggested enforcement measures for the U.S. to adopt in order to ensure access to justice and adequate oversight. Recommendations include:
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and state agencies charged with implementing anti-discrimination policy should make their complaint processes accessible to H-2 workers by setting up a 24-hour complaint hotline in multiple languages, including indigenous languages and Spanish.
The EEOC and DOL should affirmatively allocate more resources to investigating and monitoring H-2 workplaces for sex-based labor segregation.
Access to legal services, including federally funded legal services should be extended to all H-2 workers.
The DOL, DOS, and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) should improve record keeping and data transparency to allow for better monitoring of sex distribution in the H-2 programs, including by occupation and wage
To read the complaint, please visit: https://cdmigrante.org/migrant-worker-women-usmca/
About Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. (CDM)
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