Today, Congresswoman Lois Frankel, Congressman Ted Deutch and Congressman Jim Himes introduced the "Transparency in Visa Reporting to Protect American Jobs and Prevent Human Trafficking Act" to bring long overdue transparency to the temporary foreign worker visa system. Currently, federal data about temporary foreign worker visas is collected by three separate federal agencies and generally not made available to the public.
The lack of publically available data impedes efforts by law enforcement to crack down on abusive employers who lure foreign workers to the United States only to coerce them into unbearable conditions, including sex trade and domestic servitude. The lack of transparency also impedes efforts by labor analysts, reporters, and policymakers to understand how temporary worker visas impact American jobs.
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 --vital to our economy. A lack of data on these visas facilitates unscrupulous employers who hide workers in abusive conditions.
"Human trafficking is modern day slavery. This legislation will help protect vulnerable foreign workers, who have come here legally, from being abused and exploited," said Frankel.
"The secrecy surrounding temporary worker visa programs is totally unwarranted and impedes access to important data sought out by law enforcement, labor analysts, policymakers, journalists, and the general public," said Congressman Deutch. "Bringing long-overdue transparency to the foreign worker visa system will improve accountability, public safety, and our economy."
"Human trafficking is an abhorrent crime that forces men, women and children into a life of modern-day slavery. In far too many cases, foreign workers are promised legitimate work in the United States by job recruiters only to be pushed into a life of forced labor and servitude. This legislation gives law enforcement stronger tools to combat these heinous crimes," said Himes.
The legislation takes on human trafficking and protects American workers by:
Creating a standardized reporting system across all non-immigrant visas that authorize work, and requiring that the reported information is made public;
Mandating that the age and gender of workers is included in the public report. This critical information can identify a foreign workforce that is demographically distinct from its domestic counterpart--which may indicate an underlying problem, such as employment discrimination, or worse, human trafficking;
Giving governments, advocates and the public the data needed to develop targeted trafficking prevention outreach programs to educate workers here, and in their home countries.
The Department of Justice and FBI reported over 1,200 human trafficking investigations in 2011. There are likely many more victims since this is a widely underreported crime. In 2011, Florida was ranked third in the number of calls received by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, behind only California and Texas.
"Transparency In Visa Reporting To Protect American Jobs And Prevent Human Trafficking Act" is supported by: The Global Workers Justice Alliance, the Economic Policy Institute, the Alliance To End Slavery and Trafficking, Verite, Safe Horizons, Southern Poverty Law Center, Break the Chain Campaign, National Guestworker Alliance, National Employment Law Project, Polaris, Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, and the American Federation of Teachers, Migrant Farmworker Justice Project of Lake Worth, Florida, and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.