For Immediate Release

February 18, 2014

Media Contact:
Kristin Love, Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc.,

+55 5211.9397 (in Mexico), 410-783-0236 (in the U.S.)


On Eve of North American Leaders’ Summit, Migrants Demand Justice

Mexico City– Migrants working under the U.S. H-2 visa programs face grave and systemic labor rights violations.  On the eve of the North American Leaders’ Summit in Toluca, Mexico, where Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, U.S. President Barack Obama, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper are expected to speak about energy and improving regional trade under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), migrants and their advocates urged that all leaders and governments must act to protect migrants’ rights.

“We see that the rights of Mexican migrants working in the United States continue to be violated,” said Leonardo Cortez Vitela, a leader of the Migrant Defense Committee and a former traveling fair worker who worked in the United States under the H-2B visa program, a non-agricultural work visa program. 66,000 people can work under the H-2B program every year. Most are from Mexico. “Migrants’ rights should be protected. We go to work in the United States, to help U.S. companies with their business. To be exploited like this is an injustice,” Cortez said.

At a press conference today in Mexico City, a transnational coalition of migrants and advocates highlighted that labor and employment violations continue more than a year after the Mexican NAO called for bilateral consultations under the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC), the labor side accord to NAFTA.  To date, the United States has not publicly responded to Mexico’s request for ministerial consultations. Migrant leaders called on the two governments to swiftly address the serious allegations that migrants and their advocates have raised in a series of petitions dating back to 2003.  All of these petitions highlight the lack of enforcement and protections for H-2 workers in the U.S.

The most recent petition, Mex 2011-01, was filed with the Mexican Secretary of Labor and Social Welfare in September 2011 under the NAALC.  Petitioners filed a supplement to Mex 2011-01 in August 2012 and a second supplement today.  “We are calling on the Mexican and U.S. governments to move quickly and finalize a plan for the ministerial consultations and issue a ministerial declaration,” said Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. (CDM) Policy Director Sarah Rempel. “While governments continue to delay, migrants suffer.”

In Mex 2011-01, three former traveling fair and carnival workers and several non-governmental organizations from Mexico and the United States alleged that the U.S. government had violated the NAALC because it routinely allows U.S. employers to pay H-2B workers less than the minimum wage and to deny H-2B workers overtime and reimbursements for labor recruitment, travel, and visa costs. Additionally, petitioners argued that H-2 workers face substantial barriers that prevent them from asserting their rights and ensuring that they are enforced. In December 2012, the Mexican National Administrative Office (NAO), an office of the Secretary of Labor and Social Welfare (STPS), sided with the petitioners in a report on Mex 2011-01 and two other public submissions related to migrant workers, and urged the STPS Minister to request ministerial consultations with the U.S. Department of Labor to resolve the violations alleged in the petitions.

Under the NAALC, now in its twentieth year, Canada, Mexico, and the United States are obliged to protect migrant workers’ rights in the same way that the governments protect their nationals in respect of working conditions. At the press conference today, advocates announced that new co-petitioners were joining in support of Mex 2011-01.


The following organizations supported today’s press conference:
AFL-CIO, Alianza de Trabajadores Agrícolas, Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc., Comité de Defensa del Migrante, Farmworker Justice, Friends of Farmworkers, Inc., Foro Migraciones, La Fundación para la Justicia y el Estado Democrático de Derecho, FUNDAR-Centro de Análisis e Investigación, Global Workers Justice Alliance, Interfaith Worker Justice, Instituto de Estudios y Divulgación Sobre la Migración (INEDIM), Proyecto Jornaleros SAFE, North Carolina Justice Center, Northwest Workers’ Justice Project, Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project, Red Mexicana de Lideres y Organizaciones Migrantes, Respuesta Alternativa, A.C., Southern Poverty Law Center, Sin Fronteras, Southern Poverty Law Center, UFCW Canadá, Workers’ Center of Central New York,Mesa Nacional de Migrantes y Refugiados (Panamá), Instituto Centroamericano de Estudios Sociales y Desarrollo -INCEDES (Guatemala), Grupo de Monitoreo Independiente de El Salvador (GMIES), Instituto Salvadoreño del Migrantes (INSAMI), SOLETERRE, Asociación Salvadoreña de Educación Financiera (ASEFIN), Iglesia episcopal anglicana, Instituto de Derechos Humanos de la UCA (IDHUCA), Iglesia Scabrini, Scalabrini International, Migración Network (El Salvador), Centro Internacional para los Derechos Humanos de los Migrantes (CIDEHUM) (Costa Rica).
The following people are available for comment:
Lilián López Gracián, Outreach Coordinator, Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc.
Sarah Rempel, Policy Director, Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc.
Martín Davila, Migrant Defense Committee Leader and former H-2B worker
Jessica Stender, Legal Director, Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc.