On June 16, the U.S. Department of State released its 20th annual Trafficking in Persons Report. Migration that Works, a coalition of labor, migration, civil rights, anti-trafficking organizations and academics advancing a labor migration model that respects the human rights of workers, families and communities – issued the following statement in response:

We are disappointed to see that the U.S. has once again given itself a top grade when it comes to efforts to fight human trafficking. As a diverse coalition of advocates and service providers working directly with survivors of human trafficking in multiple sectors of the labor force, we know firsthand that this grade has not been earned. In particular, we believe the U.S. has a tremendous amount of work to do to address vulnerability to labor trafficking in its guestworker programs. 

Rachel Micah-Jones, executive director of Centro de los Derechos del Migrante (CDM) which chairs Migration that Works, said she and her staff were surprised to see that the U.S. maintained its Tier 1 ranking in the TIP report. “The U.S. should have been downgraded. As an organization that supports migrant worker advocacy, CDM has filed two trafficking lawsuits with internationally recruited workers in the last week alone.” 

Two hallmarks of these programs, worker indebtedness through the recruitment process and unbreakable ties to a specific employer, virtually guarantee that workers cannot safely speak out against abuse for fear of deportation. U.S. government asylum policies, mass detention of immigrants in recent years, including separation of families, and immigration policy response to COVID-19 have exacerbated immigrant workers’ vulnerability and created a climate of fear that fundamentally erodes U.S. efforts to address human trafficking. 

Although the TIP report is used primarily as a tool of diplomacy to “name and shame” countries into improving trafficking prevention and response efforts, the report nonetheless serves as an indicator about how seriously the U.S. takes trafficking in its own backyard. By giving itself a Tier 1 rating, the U.S. government continues to demonstrate apathy toward meaningful improvements of conditions for immigrant workers who provide essential contributions to the U.S. economy. We believe that to truly earn a Tier 1 rating, the U.S. must reimagine its guestworker programs so they uphold fundamental rights to freedom of movement, freedom from economic coercion and intimidation, and access to justice. 


Migration that Works is a coalition of labor, migration, civil rights, anti-trafficking organizations and academics advancing a labor migration model that respects the human rights of workers, families and communities and reflects their voices and experiences. We envision a value-based model for labor migration that prioritizes the human rights of workers and their families, elevating labor standards for all workers.

Statement on Trump Administration Executive Order Restricting Worker Visas

Migration that Works, a coalition of labor, academics, migrant rights and anti-human trafficking organizations formed in 2011, denounces the Administration’s latest immigration order as another tactic to divert attention from its dismal response to the COVID-19 crisis, which has left more than 120,000 people in the U.S. dead. Instead of focusing on taking concrete actions to protect all workers, this Administration relies, once again, upon furthering a nativist agenda in an effort to divide workers. 

We are seeing a rising number of workers dying and being infected with coronavirus on the job. Thousands of workers are falling ill to the coronavirus in unsafe and dangerous work sites throughout the country. These workers are not provided with personal protective equipment; paid sick leave; and, they face retaliatory action if they raise a complaint about their work conditions. Yet, there is no action from the agency that is supposed to be workers’ health and safety watchdog – OSHA. 

Missing in this order is anything that reforms the problematic guestworker programs. International workers experience abusive recruitment processes in which they are often charged exorbitant amounts of money. This Order does not indicate what steps the Administration will take to address workers that have already incurred significant expenses in pursuing guestworker visas. Applicants often take out loans or put property up for collateral in order to pay several thousand dollars in fees in order to secure a visa. This is a long process that with this announcement leaves them in the dark. Unknown is whether the recruiters and sponsor agencies involved will reimburse these workers for unused fees. 

Instead of nativist and xenophobic bans, we need protections for all workers now.

Migration That Works will not be silent

“There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”Martin Luther King Jr.

Migration That Works will not be silent

Migration That Works stands in solidarity with the Black community as they demand justice for the murders of  George Floyd, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and many other victims of police brutality. The Minneapolis police officer’s knee on George Floyd’s neck that resulted in his brutal murder is both a physical manifestation and symbol of the physical and structural racism that is persistent and pervasive in every aspect of Black lives in the United States. This racial violence results from historic, systemic injustices like slavery and lynchings committed with impunity–as well as state-sponsored and state-sanctioned violence, which have been tools utilized to maintain the status quo of white supremacy over public policy and civic life. We cannot be silent. We demand justice. We demand change.

Migration That Works is a coalition of labor, migration, civil rights, anti-trafficking organizations, and academics advancing a labor migration model that respects the human rights of workers, families, and communities and reflects their voices and experiences. We envision a value-based model for labor migration that prioritizes the human rights of workers and their families, elevating labor standards for all workers.

As a coalition, we acknowledge that this is a common fight for dignity, equality, and freedom.  We commit to taking the following steps: 

  1. Uplift Black Migrant voices in the demand for justice and speak out against racist policies and practices that exclude or devalue them.
  2. Seek to form long term collaborations with Black migrant coalitions.

These commitments serve as a foundation for a long-term road map for Migration that Works. Above all, we will leverage our platform, and amplify the voices of those most affected to combat the racial injustice that pervades our country.

Black Lives Matter.

Spotlight on Black-led organizations leading efforts on the ground in MN: Black Visions Collective

Migration that Works During Pandemics- Our Letter to Washington

As migrant worker communities continue to live through and face the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we write this letter seeking protections for the more than one and a half million workers who are employed in in the United States through a multitude of temporary visas. We urge and ask federal policymakers to consider workers in temporary visas in any future legislation related to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and national emergency, including relief packages and economic stimulus.

We must act now.

During a national crisis we must all pull together and ensure that every resident is safe and healthy and has the freedom to take the appropriate measures necessary to physically distance themselves from others. Immigration status should not be a determinant of who can access relief measures like access to testing, unemployment insurance, and paid leave.

Read our letter here.

Lxs Trabajadorxs Inmigrantes Ejercen Roles de Primera Línea: Necesitan Protección

Los 1.6 millones de trabajadores y trabajadoras migrantes empleados a través de programas de visas de trabajo temporal en los Estados Unido están en la primera línea de la respuesta COVID-19 de la nación. Están realizando trabajos esenciales que hacen que Estados Unidos funcione, incluyendo la producción de nuestros alimentos. Sin embargo, se han quedado fuera de las conversaciones sobre la mejor manera de proteger a las personas.

En los próximos días, muchos trabajadores migrantes en la cadena de suministro de alimentos viajarán a los Estados Unidos. Al mismo tiempo, muchos trabajadores migrantes temporales ya están realizando tareas esenciales: procesar mariscos, cortar pasto, trabajar en el campo. Muchos de estos trabajadores son particularmente vulnerables al virus debido a sus condiciones de vida y trabajo, y están trabajando prácticamente sin protección. 

El año pasado, el Departamento de Trabajo aprobó más de 250,000 puestos de visa H-2A para trabajo agrícola. Esos trabajadores representan aproximadamente el 10% de todos los trabajadores agrícolas en los Estados Unidos. Si bien existen algunas protecciones para los trabajadores, esas protecciones son completamente inadecuadas para salvaguardar la salud de los trabajadores en el contexto de una pandemia global.

Los trabajadores H-2A son principalmente de México y generalmente viajan en autobuses llenos de gente a los Estados Unidos. Luego se alojan en lugares extremadamente concurridos en viviendas proporcionadas por el empleador. La vivienda suele ser de estilo cuartel, con literas u otro tipo de camas muy juntas. Los trabajadores a menudo viajan con docenas de compañeros de trabajo para llegar a los campos y a las tiendas para comprar alimentos y otras necesidades. Las regulaciones creadas para asegurar que la vivienda y el transporte de los trabajadores sean adecuados en tiempos normales son totalmente inadecuados ahora. Las regulaciones requieren que la vivienda tenga solo 50 pies cuadrados por persona para dormir; También permiten que las camas en las áreas compartidas para dormir estén tan cerca como a tres pies de distancia. Esto simplemente no permitirá el tipo de distanciamiento social recomendado por los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades (“CDC” por sus siglas en inglés), que recomienda que personas mantengan una distancia de al menos seis pies entre sí.

Los trabajadores H-2A rara vez tienen algún tipo de seguro de salud. En general, también viven en zonas rurales y aisladas sin acceso al transporte. Como resultado, su capacidad para acceder a cualquier tipo de atención médica es extremadamente limitada. Además, generalmente no hay lugar para aislar a un trabajador H-2A si desarrolla síntomas de COVID-19 u otras enfermedades. Exigimos a los empleadores agrícolas a que proporcionen instalaciones para aislar a las y los trabajadores H-2A que se infectan y asegurarse de que puedan ver a un médico. Se debe requerir que la vivienda provista por el empleador durante esta emergencia tenga espacio suficiente para cumplir con la guía de los CDC.

Además, muchos trabajadores no tienen acceso a instalaciones de lavado de manos en el trabajo. Actualmente, esas instalaciones no son requeridas a los empleadores que emplean a 10 trabajadores o menos. Incluso a los empleadores más grandes que brindan estas instalaciones simplemente se les exige que las ubiquen dentro de ¼ de milla del lugar de trabajo. Esto no brinda a los trabajadores la capacidad práctica de lavarse las manos regularmente, según lo recomendado por los expertos en salud. Además, la mayoría de los trabajadores agrícolas carecen de acceso a las máscaras, guantes y suministros de desinfectantes que necesitan para evitar infectarse o infectar a sus colegas. Las instalaciones adecuadas para lavarse las manos y el equipo de seguridad necesario deben estar disponibles en todo momento para los trabajadores.

Finalmente, existe una alta probabilidad de que las y los trabajadores H-2A que ingresan a los Estados Unidos sean sobreextendidos por su trabajo debido a las interrupciones que tienen lugar con el procesamiento de visas en los países de origen. Esto es más probable que ocurra entre los empleadores designados H-2ALC. Los H-2ALC migran a través de estados y regiones para proporcionar mano de obra a los productores con los que contratan, trasladando a sus trabajadores con ellos. Es probable que los H-2ALC tengan una gran demanda debido a la inminente escasez de mano de obra en la industria. Esto aumentará los peligros para la salud y el bienestar de los trabajadores.

Otros trabajadores temporales también son vulnerables. Más de 100,000 trabajadores H-2B fueron empleados en los Estados Unidos el año pasado. Algunas de las ocupaciones más grandes de H-2B requieren que los trabajadores migrantes trabajen estrechamente junto a sus colegas en las fábricas (procesamiento de mariscos, por ejemplo), para interactuar estrechamente con el público (camareros y camareras), para preparar alimentos (cocineros en restaurantes) y para realizar trabajos peligrosos como la construcción. Muchos trabajadores H-2B están empleados en el sector de servicios, que está en camino de perder millones de empleos en cuestión de semanas. Estos trabajadores no tienen acceso al seguro de desempleo ni a ningún otro beneficio público. Si no trabajan, no tienen ingresos. Sin embargo, siguen siendo responsables de pagar a menudo deudas muy importantes en las que incurrieron para asegurar sus trabajos.

Los migrantes con educación universitaria y visas de trabajo temporales también pueden enfrentar desafíos. Más de 800,000 trabajadores con visas H-1B y L-1 están actualmente empleados en los Estados Unidos en salud, educación y campos de alta tecnología. Los médicos con visas temporales están en primera línea de la pandemia de COVID-19, trabajando en hospitales atestados y con poco personal. Y los maestros se enfrentan a un futuro incierto ya que las escuelas y las universidades cierran por el resto del año académico. Los principales empleadores de trabajadores H-1B y L-1 son firmas de personal que envían trabajadores a sitios de trabajo de terceros como contratistas temporales, lo que los hace vulnerables a un trato desigual.

Muchos trabajadores temporales que trabajan en los Estados Unidos son mujeres, y  ya corren un gran riesgo de violencia sexual y acoso y otras formas de discriminación. Los requisitos de salud para refugiarse en el lugar o tomar medidas de distanciamiento social colocarán a las y los sobrevivientes en lugares cercanos con los abusadores y en mayor riesgo de violencia. Las mujeres también tienen necesidades físicas, culturales, de seguridad y sanitarias específicas, que deben reconocerse y abordarse.

La contratación internacional de trabajadores temporales está mal regulada y no es transparente en tiempos ordinarios. Estos no son tiempos ordinarios. Muchos trabajadores ya han pagado tarifas de reclutamiento y visas para viajar para trabajos que pueden existir o no este año. Muchos trabajadores se ven obligados a obtener préstamos sustanciales para conseguir un trabajo, y muchos reciben información falsa sobre los trabajos para los que son reclutados. Esos trabajadores deben recibir información clara y precisa sobre COVID-19 en su idioma nativo. Deben recibir herramientas claras para protegerse mientras viajan, trabajan y residen en los EE. UU.

Los trabajadores migrantes temporales que ya se encuentran en los Estados Unidos informan haber sido desplazados de los trabajos para los que fueron reclutados. En algunos casos, esos trabajadores no pueden abandonar el país porque las fronteras de sus hogares ahora están cerradas. El Departamento de Seguridad Nacional y el Departamento de Trabajo deberían exigir a los empleadores que ofrezcan empleo en los EE. UU. A cualquier trabajador temporal desplazado antes de que otros trabajadores sean reclutados para el empleo.

Es esencial que promulguemos políticas inmediatas para proteger a los trabajadores más vulnerables de este virus. Las y los trabajadores migrantes temporales deben tener derecho a todas las protecciones ofrecidas a otros trabajadores. Y deben establecerse protecciones mucho mayores para salvaguardar a los trabajadores que residen en viviendas proporcionadas por el empleador y que viajan en transporte proporcionado por el empleador. Los trabajadores deben estar cubiertos por la compensación de los trabajadores si se enferman por el virus. Deben saber que se pagarán todos los costos de las pruebas y el tratamiento de COVID-19. Los Estados Unidos estarán mucho menos seguros si negamos la atención médica y las condiciones de trabajo seguras a una parte esencial de nuestra fuerza laboral.

Los trabajadores migrantes están en la primera línea de esta pandemia. Cada día aceptamos los beneficios de su trabajo. Ha llegado el momento de aceptar nuestra responsabilidad de proteger adecuadamente a estos trabajadores de esta amenaza potencialmente mortal.

Migrant workers are at the front lines: they need protections

The 1.6 million migrant workers in the United States employed through temporary work visa programs are on the front lines of the nation’s COVID-19 response. They are performing essential jobs that make the U.S. function, including producing our food. Yet they have been largely left out of conversations about how best to protect people. 

In the coming days, many migrant workers in the food supply chain will travel to the United States. At the same time, many temporary migrant workers are already here performing essential work–processing seafood, cutting grass, working in the fields. Many of these workers are particularly vulnerable to the virus because of their living and working conditions, and they are working with virtually no protections. We need to do better.  

Last year, the Department of Labor approved over 250,000 H-2A visa positions for agricultural work. Those workers represent approximately 10% of all farmworkers in the United States. While there are some protections in place for workers, those protections are completely inadequate to safeguard the health of workers in the context of a global pandemic.

H-2A workers are mostly from Mexico and generally travel on crowded buses to the United States. They are then housed in extremely close quarters in employer-provided housing.  Housing is often barracks style, with bunk beds or other types of beds close together. Workers often ride with dozens of coworkers to get to the fields and to the stores to buy food and other necessities. The regulations created to ensure that worker housing and transportation are adequate in normal times are wholly inadequate now. The regulations require that housing have only 50 square feet per person for sleeping; they also allow beds in shared sleeping areas to be as close as three feet apart. This simply will not allow for the kind of social distancing being recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), which recommends that non-family members maintain a distance of at least six feet from one another.

H-2A workers rarely have any form of health insurance. They also generally live in rural, isolated areas without access to transportation. As a result, their ability to access any kind of medical care is extremely limited. In addition, there is generally no place for an H-2A worker to be isolated if he or she develops symptoms of COVID-19 or other illnesses. Farm employers should be required to provide facilities to isolate H-2A workers who become infected and to ensure that they are able to see a doctor. Employer-provided housing should be required during this emergency to have sufficient space to comply with guidance by the CDC. 

Furthermore, many workers do not have access to handwashing facilities on the job. Those facilities are not required for employers who employ 10 or fewer workers. Even the larger employers that do provide these facilities are merely required to have them located within ¼ mile of the worksite. This does not afford workers the practical ability to wash their hands regularly as recommended by health experts. Furthermore, most farmworkers lack access to the masks, gloves, and disinfectant supplies they need to keep from becoming infected or infecting their colleagues. Adequate hand washing facilities and necessary safety equipment must be readily available at all times to workers. 

Finally, there is a high likelihood H-2A workers who do enter the United States will be overextended for their labor due to the disruptions taking place with visa processing in countries of origin. This is most likely to occur among employers designated H-2ALCs. H-2ALCs migrate across states and regions to provide labor to growers they contract with, moving their workers along with them. It is likely that H-2ALCs will be in high demand due to imminent labor shortages in the industry. This will increase dangers to worker health and wellbeing. 

Other temporary workers are also vulnerable. Over 100,000 H-2B workers were employed in the United States last year. Some of the biggest H-2B occupations require migrant workers to work closely next to their colleagues in factories (seafood processing, for example), to interface closely with the public (waiters and waitresses), to prepare food (cooks in restaurants), and to perform dangerous jobs like construction. Many H-2B workers are employed in the service sector, which is on pace to lose millions of jobs within a matter of weeks. These workers do not have access to unemployment insurance or any other public benefits. If they do not work, they do not have income. Yet they remain responsible for paying often very substantial debts they incurred in securing their jobs. 

College-educated migrants with temporary work visas may also face challenges. More than 800,000 workers with H-1B and L-1 visas are currently employed in the United States in health, education, and high-tech fields. Doctors with temporary visas are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, working in crowded and understaffed hospitals. And teachers face an uncertain future as schools and universities all but shut down for the rest of the academic year. The biggest employers of H-1B and L-1 workers are staffing firms that send workers to third-party worksites as temporary contractors, which makes them vulnerable to disparate treatment.

Many temporary workers who work in the U.S. are women.  They are already at great risk of sexual violence and harassment and other forms of discrimination. Health requirements to shelter in place or engage in social distancing measures will place survivors in close quarters with abusers and at greater risk of violence. Women also have specific physical, cultural, security, and sanitary needs, which must be recognized and addressed.    

International recruitment of temporary workers is poorly regulated and not transparent in ordinary times. These are not ordinary times. Many workers have already paid recruitment and visa fees to travel for jobs that may or not exist this year. Many workers are forced to take out substantial loans to get a job, and many are provided false information about the jobs for which they are recruited. Those workers must be provided clear and accurate information about COVID-19 in their native language. They must be given clear tools to protect themselves while traveling, working and residing in the U.S.

Temporary foreign workers already in the United States report having been displaced from jobs for which they were recruited. In some cases those workers are unable to leave the country because the borders to their homes are now closed. The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor should require employers to offer employment in the U.S. to any displaced temporary workers before other workers are recruited for employment.

It is essential that we enact immediate policies to protect the most vulnerable workers from this virus. Temporary migrant workers must be entitled to all protections offered to other workers. And far greater protections must be enacted to safeguard workers residing in employer-provided housing and riding in employer-provided transportation. Workers must be covered by workers compensation if they become ill from the virus.  They must know that all costs of testing and treatment for COVID-19 will be paid. The United States will be far less safe if we deny healthcare and safe working conditions to an essential portion of our workforce. 

Migrant workers are on the front lines of this pandemic. Each day we accept the benefits of their labor. The time has come to accept our responsibility to adequately protect these workers from this potentially deadly threat.

Recruitment that Works for Nurses and Healthcare Professionals

By Mukul Bakhshi

There is a lot of surprise when people learn that foreign-educated professionals—such as nurses and other healthcare professionals—are subject to labor exploitation.  Labor contracts often require nurses to remain for several years with the staffing firm that originally recruited them. Given recruitment, immigration, travel, and training costs, some might concede that some type of binding contract requirement is necessary for the recruitment offoreign-educated health professionals (FEHP) to exist. However, these requirements leave workers vulnerable in the event they are harassed on the job or are retaliated against for complaining about working conditions. They also give little protection to workers who simply do not want to move thousands of miles away for a recruiting agency that they will be forced to remain with for more than three years.

The Alliance for Ethical International Recruitment Practices (Alliance), as a multi-stakeholder organization, established the Health Care Code for Ethical International Recruitment and Employment Practices (Alliance Code)available at www.cgfnsalliance.org. The Alliance Code is a voluntary set of standards which ensure that international health worker recruitment is fair and transparent. Recruitment firms that agree to abide by the Code are certified.

The Alliance was created in 2008, after a study found that nurses encountered wide variance of experiences. To ameliorate the problems faced by those who had a bad experience, stakeholders– including nurse representative organizations, unions, recruiters, and employers–came together to find common ground encapsulated in the Code. The Alliance is immigration-neutral but is based on the common ground that if recruitment is going to happen, it’s in everyone’s interests that it is fair and ethical.

While these issues have been longstanding, a recent court case and an article further highlight the issues faced by FEHP. In October 2019, a federal judge held that Sentosa, a recruiter of foreign-educated nurses in New York, violated the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). Sentosa recruited nurses from the Philippines and paid and treated them poorly. When workers complained, Sentosa threatened their livelihood and even criminal prosecution for abandoning patients.  Sentosa’s behavior was extremely problematic and well beyond the realm of general business practices by recruiters and employers of FEHP.In this case, the threat to revoke the nurses’ licenses to practice, criminal action, and lawsuits all further established a pattern of coercion that the district judge thought rose to the level of human trafficking. The decision is pending appeal but has nonetheless made waves.

In January 2020, the Alliance and its parent organization, CGFNS International, Inc., published an article in the American Journal of Nursing discussing the current state of recruitment of FEHP to the United States. This research showed that FEHP’s experience generally improved over the past decade since the research that led to the inception of the Alliance; nevertheless, issues of fairness and transparency faced by many FEHP, and the extreme issues evoked by the Sentosa decision, highlight the continued need for all stakeholders to support fair recruitment principles.

Mukul Bakhshi is the Director of the Alliance for Ethical International Recruitment Practices. You can visit their webiste at: https://www.cgfnsalliance.org/

Migration that Works: Our Rebranding Story

In October 2011, we formed as the International Labor Recruitment Working Group, a coalition of labor, migration, civil rights, research, anti-trafficking organizations, and academics. Since then, we have fought to end systemic abuse for internationally recruited workers across visa categories and promote quality jobs and labor standards across industries.

We have joined with migrant workers like Ingrid Cruz, a teacher, and thousands of others — from numerous sectors including construction, domestic work, agriculture, fishing, manufacturing, nursing, hospitality and others —  to advocate for laws that uplift workers and ensure that they are able to work with rights and dignity. From pushing to strike down harmful policies to informing stakeholders and policymakers about the experiences of guestworkers, we have made sure that the voices of the workers themselves are reflected in policy debates.

As our coalition has evolved and grown, we have worked relentlessly to shift the narrative on labor migration, recognizing that all workers deserve full labor rights and to be free from discrimination, regardless of immigration status. We have crafted a values-based alternative vision for existing guestworker models that is rooted in family integrity, worker power, and equity. Under this new model, workers, rather than their employers, will control their visas, and those workers will be able to access a pathway to long-term residency and eventual citizenship. 

As a collective of worker advocacy organizations, labor unions, academics, and individuals united by our commitment to promoting a just and equitable world, we believe that labor migration must be rooted in rights, values, and the needs of working people. 

Today, we are relaunching our coalition under a new name that better reflects our goals and expertise: Migration that Works. 

Migration that Works offers people-centered and values-based solutions to end the misuse of labor migration programs to exploit workers. Beyond a policy working group, we are a coalition committed to action, and we are engaging directly with workers, allies, and policymakers to advance a system that works for all of us, including migrant workers and their families. 

We invite you to support and partner with us in implementing this alternative for and alongside migrant workers across visa categories.