Then last week, they reached Senate floor. During debate of the Senate immigration bill, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said: “I fear very much that this J-1 program is being exploited by corporations like Hershey’s and McDonald’s as an effort to simply bring students from abroad to work at low-paying jobs in the United States.”
Severe exploitation of guestworkers has become commonplace across visa categories. As the Senate makes the final changes to its immigration bill in coming weeks, it needs to include strong worker protections for all guestworkers, regardless of visa program or industry. That includes whistleblower protections for workers who come forward to expose employer abuse, the ability for guestworkers to change employers without losing legal status and rules that prevent recruiters from profiting from exploitation.
It’s not just the future of guestworkers at stake — it’s the future of the tens of millions of U.S. workers alongside them.
Jennifer J. Rosenbaum is the legal and policy director of the National Guestworker Alliance.
United We Dream protesters carry a mock coffin to the office of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Monday, July 21, 2014, to hold one of their "funeral services for the Republican Party" due to GOP positions on immigration. The immigration reform group visited several other Senate Republican offices to hold similar funeral services.