Gregory Cendana, executive director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance ( APALA ), warns that the national debate around creating a commonsense immigration process “has largely ignored a disturbing trend in businesses: the modern-day indentured servitude of temporary workers.”
In a column on The Huffington Post , Cendana provides recent examples of the “human trafficking” of shipyard workers and teachers by unscrupulous recruiters and employers that took place as part of the H-1B worker program, which allow U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers.
The workers pay placement agencies high fees to obtain the jobs—many times borrowed at high interest rates, writes Cendana, then the agencies "force workers to sign contracts before they leave their country of origin."
When they arrive, they ask for passports as a tactic, and then force workers to sign additional contracts to pay more fees. Workers are then told where to live, and exactly who to talk to or not talk to, while also paying exorbitant rent for small spaces. Fear of arrest and deportation prevent workers from seeking help.
Cendana says there must be a closer examination of the demands for labor and the abusive recruitment practices within these temporary worker programs “that take away the dignity of temporary workers.”
Comprehensive immigration reform must include regulations on recruitment of temporary workers, due process and whistle-blower protections, including a pathway to citizenship for these workers and all who are aspiring citizens.
Read Cendana's full column and learn more about the union movement’s principles for immigration reform .