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SPLC Report Claims Guest Worker Program Exposes Workers to Abuse

By Lawayne Childrey | Published 19 Feb 2013 07:43pm | comments

Congress is looking to include the guest worker program in its immigration reform package. But as  MPB's Lawayne Childrey reports some opponents say the guest worker program already in place exploits and abuses workers.

The H-2B guest worker program allows U.S. employers to hire non agricultural workers from other countries on temporary work permits.  But during a telephone press conference yesterday the Southern Poverty Law Center released a report that claims the federal program exposes immigrant workers to  abuse and exploitation. Mary Bauer is the law center's deputy legal director.

"Our report documents that workers are routinely cheated out of wages, have their documents, identity documents seized, forced to live in squalled conditions and denied benefits for injuries on the job."

Bauer says the report illustrates that without significant reforms, the expansion of current federal guest worker programs will only lead to more human rights abuses.  Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Human Rights agrees.

"The truth is guest workers pick crabs on the Maryland eastern shore which is unpleasant work. They pluck chickens in Arkansas which is decidedly unpleasant work. And on the Gulf Coast after the storm they did jobs that obviously could have been filled in many instances by native workers. But they did jobs without the safety precautions that American workers would have insisted upon."

But Ron aldridge, State Director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses insist there is a great need for the guest worker program here in Mississippi.

"And at various times of the year there are certain companies that need certain expertise and sometimes they have to go beyond their area simply because there is not somebody readily available at that point in time. So  they have to go beyond our state border as well as our national border to find some workers ready to fulfill that need."

As congress considers  immigration reform some political analyst believe  the guest worker program could be the key component of the reform package.  Lawayne Childrey MPB News.





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