Committee on Education and Labor : U.S. House of Representatives

Press Releases

Congress Sends Bill to Protect Guest Workers to President
Legislation Creates Criminal Penalties for Unscrupulous Labor Recruiters and U.S. Employers

Thursday, December 11, 2008


WASHINGTON, DC -- Legislation that would help protect guest workers from fraud, abuse and exploitation at the hands of foreign labor recruiters and U.S. employers cleared Congress yesterday, as part of a larger bipartisan measure to combat human trafficking.

The provisions were championed by U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, and U.S. Reps. Howard Berman (D-CA), John Conyers (D-MI), and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), and are expected to be signed by the President.

Among other things, they would create strong new criminal laws to penalize foreign labor recruiters and U.S. employers who lure guest workers into employment under false pretenses. They would also provide foreign workers with vital information on their legal rights when applying for employment or education related U.S. visas.

“For too long, employers and labor recruiters have escaped scot-free when exploiting and abusing guest workers. Not only do these actions take advantage of guest workers, but they also drive down wages and benefits for American workers,” said Miller. “At a time when too many Americans are seeing their jobs and wages slip away, I’m glad that Congress took this important step to start holding crooked employers and labor recruiters accountable, and want to thank Reps. Berman, Conyers and Lofgren for their leadership in making this happen.

“However, imposing criminal penalties is just one part of the equation,” Miller continued.  “We’ve got to do more to improve working conditions and wages for both guest workers and U.S. workers. I hope that the next Congress and new administration will take a comprehensive approach on labor and immigration issues.”

Hundreds of thousands of guest workers come to this country each year, often mortgaging their lives to pay thousands of dollars in fees to recruiters who promise them a good job. In too many cases, these workers arrive here only to work for unlivable wages, in deplorable working conditions – a far cry from what they were promised. Under the Bush administration, guest worker programs have been allowed to operate with little oversight from the Department of Labor.

Miller is also the author of legislation, the Indentured Servitude Abolition Act of 2007, (H.3. 1763), that would more comprehensively put a stop to these practices. Among other things, the bill would discourage employers from using disreputable guest worker recruiters and prohibit foreign labor recruiters from charging workers fees or misleading workers about the type of job, wages or working conditions they could expect.

The Bush administration is expected to release new regulations shortly that would leave both American workers and guest workers in the Department of Labor’s H-2A agricultural and H-2 B non-agricultural programs with fewer labor protections and lower wages.

For more information on Miller’s efforts to root out these abuses, click here.





Contact: Aaron Albright / Rachel Racusen
2181 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515