On October 19, 2023, the White House H-2B Worker Protection Taskforce published a long-awaited report adopting many of the critical policy recommendations that CDM made and citing CDM’s research. This announcement follows on the heels of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Labor (DOL)’s proposed new rules for the H-2A and H-2B visa programs. The report and the rules include ambitious and potentially game-changing protections long advocated for by migrant workers, CDM, and allies.
Here’s what we are most excited about (It’s a long list but read on! This is all because of your support!):
- The Taskforce urges the agencies to expedite H-2B workers’ requests for deferred action for workers involved in labor disputes (Action 1.2) and ensure that workers’ presence in the United States following a labor dispute will not negatively impact them (Action 1.1).
- The Taskforce also adopted several of our recommendations for data accessibility—including sharing and integrating data on H-2B workers across agencies (Action 2.1), sharing and publishing data by “gender, sector, and occupation.” (Actions 2.2 and 2.3) and collecting new data on recruiters (Action 3.1).
- The Taskforce also recommends crucial, ongoing engagement through meetings with stakeholders and establishing a standing Inter-Agency Working Group. (Actions 2.4 and 5.1)
- Finally, the Taskforce adopted several meaningful recommendations that will directly protect workers—such as improving the agencies’ oversight of H-2B worker recruitment (Actions 3.2 and 3.3) and, crucially, providing workers with access to rights information and disseminating MigrantWorker.gov (Actions 4.1 and 4.5), information about their immigration status and pending employer-filed petitions (Action 4.2), real-time information about job opportunities (Action 4.3, contingent on resources), and improve the notification of returned workers about back wages owed to them (Action 4.4).
- Under the proposed regulations, labor organizations will be able to visit workers in their employer-provided H-2A housing. We’ve advocated relentlessly for housing access!
- Also, the proposed regulations would establish:
- Groundbreaking protections for H-2A workers who take collective action and organize on the job.
- Better ways to prevent and root out abusive employers in the program. Withholding workers’ passports to restrict their mobility would be cause for debarment from the H-2A program.
- Greater accountability and harsher consequences for employers charging illegal recruitment fees.
- Potential pathways for H-2 workers to pursue permanence and stability in the U.S.
- Mobility protections that would enable workers to leave abusive employers and find new employment without losing their visa.
CDM and Migration that Works, a coalition we chair, have long advocated for these protections. While the rules aren’t perfect, we are thrilled with the proposed changes and feel optimistic that they will help shift the balance of power in what is still an employer-controlled and fundamentally flawed program. These strengthened protections will have a direct impact on the lives of thousands of migrant workers.
For now we’re celebrating, and over the coming days, we’ll be further analyzing the report and the more than 500 pages of rules and preparing to submit comments with workers in support of the key new provisions. We’ll also call attention to what still needs to be improved. As we continue to deepen our analysis on the potential impact on the daily lives of migrant workers, we’ll be sure to share any relevant findings with you.
A source of pride: CDM and five (!!) of our reports: Ripe for Reform, Engendering Discrimination, Recruitment Revealed, Breaking the Shell, and Fake Jobs for Sale are cited quite a few times as support for some of the most important new protections!