H-2A Abuses Continue in MexicoBy Jan Hogewoning | Fri, 03/27/2020 - 11:05
The H-2A guest worker program has been a blessing for farmers in the US. While the recruiting of farmers, in most cases through private agencies, has meant significant costs, it has also created a labor supply channel that is certain and legal. Having said that, the program is far from ideal, with concerning reports emerging over the years of wage theft, discrimination, unsafe working conditions, unsafe housing, employer retaliations and lack of labor organization. While these problems have been in the spotlight in the US, the situation does not receive the proper attention in Mexico.
Because the recruitment is done in Mexico, farmers have been accused of looking the other way when it comes to abuses of the system. In a May 2019 The Guardian report, some of the issues were detailed. Workers can go through as much as 10 middlemen before they actually reach their final destination in the US. During this journey, they are charged fees, which is illegal. But, according to one estimate, this is done by 60 percent of recruitment agencies, which charge different amounts depending on the state of origin and agency. Since US consulates in Mexico deny visas if the worker has paid a fee, workers are forced to be silent about the money they give to these agencies. This makes them vulnerable to being charged large amounts of money, in some cases by non-existent fraudulent agencies for fake job offers. Many are forced to take out loans, making their economic situation even more dire.
A second problem emerges among those that make daily commutes to the US but reside across the border. In a report by Farm Worker Justice, a Washington D.C.-based human rights group, workers can end up in substandard housing or even homeless in Mexican border towns. Because they cross the border on a daily basis, they become a target for Mexican drug cartels looking to exploit them for their own operations.