We hope you and your loved ones are staying safe.
During the past two weeks, we have seen COVID-19 exacerbating systemic flaws in guestworker programs. These are the top three issues we’re hearing from workers:
- Hotel and restaurant workers are stranded and homeless. Workers in the hospitality issues tell us they’re being laid off. Some countries have closed their borders, meaning that workers cannot go home or find another job because their visas depend on a single employer.
- H-2 visas are being expedited, and social distancing is impossible. Workers report traveling in packed buses, staying in overcrowded hotel rooms and living in employer-provided housing. They are working shoulder to shoulder without access to handwashing facilities.
- There is a lot of uncertainty — and no transparency. The State Department has made rapid changes in administrative procedures, sharing this information with employers and petitioners — not with workers. Many workers tell us they have made significant expenditures in time, travel and recruitment fees and haven’t heard from their employers or recruiters in this time of uncertainty.
Under normal conditions, flaws in guestworker programs are a recipe for abuse — under COVID-19, these flaws could be lethal to migrant worker communities. That’s why we are acting now. Here’s what we’ve been up to in the last couple of weeks:
- Disseminating real-time and accurate information to workers via WhatsApp, Facebook and Contratados.org;
- Providing critical free legal services in the moment, and responding to the surge in legal intakes;
- Mobilizing allies to ensure migrant workers are included in relief packages and legislative efforts;
- Making sure migrant workers’ voices and experiences are included in media coverage on the issue (check out our commentary in the Wall Street Journal!)
Migrant workers are on the frontlines, risking their health to perform essential jobs. The fight for migrant justice is more important than ever. We might be working from home, but we’re operating at full speed, disseminating key rights information, offering free legal support and leading critical migrant worker advocacy. Will you forward this post to contacts who may not know how migrant workers are being impacted by COVID-19?