“On Tuesday, the Southern Poverty Law Center released an update of an earlier report on those H-2 programs, aggressively titled "Close to Slavery." The civil rights organization has done some of the most in-depth research on guest workers in the U.S., and the report paints a damning picture of worker exploitation and failed enforcement and oversight.
Mary Bauer, the law center's legal director, told reporters in a call Tuesday that the current H-2 programs are far too flawed to serve as a basis for the new program now being considered.
"We do not believe these programs should be the model for immigration reform," Bauer said. "We believe they are inherently abusive."
The programs are meant to help U.S. employers fill jobs that they purportedly can't find local workers for, such as landscaping or seafood processing. Although the employment works out well for many workers, investigations have shown the arrangement can lead to exploitation or abuse. That includes in the foreign country, where workers often pay recruiters exorbitant fees, and here in the U.S., where the visa tethers the worker to a sole employer.
If workers complain about issues or abuses, "they face deportation, blacklisting or other retaliation," the report says.”