Himes presses for greater oversight of work visa programs

Washington – Saying foreign workers are often abused, and even trafficked for sex, Rep. Jim Himes on Thursday introduced a bill that would require greater disclosures by those who hire temporary immigrant labor and a more centralized system of federal oversight of dozens of worker visa programs.

Millions of foreign workers are authorized to work in the U.S. on temporary, non-immigrant work visas – such as J-1 exchange visitors, H-2A agricultural workers, and many others, which Himes, D-4th District, said are vital to the U.S. economy.

But Himes said a lack of data on these visas facilitates unscrupulous employers who hide workers in abusive conditions.

“That leads to some awful things,” Himes said, including foreign workers being held against their will and used in sex trafficking.

Himes said the lack of transparency also impedes efforts by labor analysts, reporters, and policymakers to understand how temporary worker visas impact American jobs.

The “Transparency in Visa Reporting to Protect American Jobs and Prevent Human Trafficking Act” would create a standardized reporting system across all non-immigrant visas that authorize work, and requiring that the reported information is made public and mandate that the age and gender of workers is included in the public report.

The bill would also give governments, advocates and the public the data needed to develop targeted trafficking prevention outreach programs to educate workers here, and in their home countries.

Himes said the Department of Justice and FBI reported over 1,200 human trafficking investigations in 2011 and that there are likely many more victims since this is a widely under-reported crime.

Himes also said that, since 2008, there have been almost 200 reported cases of child sex trafficking in Connecticut.

He also said the National Human Trafficking Resource Center reported that between 2007 and 2013 they received 460 calls about human trafficking in Connecticut.

 

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