November 20, 2023
We did it! With contributions from dozens of workers, CDM and Migration that Works (a coalition of labor, migration, civil rights, anti-trafficking organizations and academics chaired by CDM) submitted a total of FIVE(!) extensive comments in support of the proposed rules to the H-2 guestworker programs. We just submitted the last three comments today!
I’m proud of our team for our hard work, but above all, I’m proud that our comments reflect the voices and experiences of workers who are directly affected by these flawed programs. During the last few weeks, we held feedback sessions with members of the Comité de Defensa del Migrante (Migrant Defense Committee), met with women who currently work in Maryland’s crab industry and spoke with more than a dozen additional workers by phone. And believe me, they all had a lot to say about the proposed changes to the H-2 programs!
As you may recall, back in September, DHS and DOL each announced a set of proposed rules which included potentially game-changing protections for migrant workers! We were especially thrilled because many of these protections had been long advocated for by CDM, migrant workers and our allies — including increased accountability for illegal recruitment practices, oversight and transparency, the possibility for workers to change employers, as well as stronger protections for workers who take collective action and organize on the job. You can read more about these protections in our October newsletter.
These changes could be a game changer for workers facing abuse. And talking with workers and listening to their testimonies, it’s clear how necessary these changes are and how much still needs to be done in order to build fair and just guestworker programs. Here is what one worker had to say:
“I’ve worked with an H-2B visa picking crab meat for a few years now. The first time I migrated for work, I had to pay $2000 and I was in debt. This affected the pressure I felt at work. I didn’t earn enough money during my first year to pay off my debt, so I had to return a second year so I could be rid of it. It was a struggle for me and emotionally draining. In general, I agree with the proposed changes with regards to recruitment, because that’ll ensure that employers pay more attention to what is happening – especially because of increased consequences they’ll face.”
I am deeply proud to do this work alongside migrant workers, who find the strength to fight back, organize and demand change. Ultimately, this is what our work is all about: ensuring that workers’ voices and priorities are reflected in the laws and policies that directly affect them. We are especially thrilled to share that in addition to sharing their powerful testimonies to strengthen our comments, many H-2 workers submitted individual comments to the proposed rules! Workers speaking out and getting directly involved in making change happen… I love it!
I’m so grateful for these workers and our team for their incredible work. And for you, for supporting migrant workers in making their voices heard. Momentum is on our side — let’s keep going.