The following statement was released by Saket Soni, Executive Director of the National Guestworker Alliance, on June 24, 2013:
We strongly oppose the harsh border militarization measures that have been added to the Senate immigration bill through the Corker-Hoeven Amendment. Further militarization will make border communities less safe, and waste $30 billion of taxpayer money at a time when tens of millions of U.S. workers are struggling to make ends meet.
There are existing amendments that would offset the harms of the Corker-Hoeven Amendment, and the Senate bill needs to incorporate them. These include civil rights protections for people who live in border communities, and whistleblower protections for immigrant guestworkers on H-2B visas.
Without whistleblower protections, the Corker-Hoeven Amendment will make it even easier for employers to trap guestworkers in exploitation, and to trap the U.S. workers alongside them in a race to the bottom. Currently, guestworkers’ legal status is bound to a single employer, letting employers silence worker whistleblowers by threatening firing and deportation. Corker-Hoeven includes harsh penalties on visa overstays that would make employers’ threats even more intimidating. That means more labor abuse, fewer whistleblowers, and falling wages and conditions for U.S. workers. Strong whistleblower protections for H-2B guestworkers would provide a check on this abuse.
We urge senators to open up a path to include these crucial civil and labor rights protections before the bill is finalized. Americans overwhelmingly want immigration reform that protects the rights of all America’s workers, whether immigrant or U.S.-born. U.S. immigration policy needs to reflect that.