Saturday, June 7, 2008

H-2B Visas -- Human Trafficing?

A group of ironworkers from India, employed by Signal International of Mississippi to repair oil rigs in the Gulf that were damaged by Hurricane Katrina, have charged their employer and the labor recruiters they hired of fraud and deception in bringing them into the country. They even call it "human trafficing". The workers have instituted law suits and have asked the Justice Department to initiate a criminal investigation.

The Indian workers had been recruited with promises of "green cards" that would have afforded them residency and the right to bring in immediate family. All were experienced in temporary labor in other countries, but the promises of the labor recruiters drew them to the U.S. They entered on H-2B visas that bound them to Signal and were only temporary. Also they claimed to have had their movements constricted and were put up in inadequate housing.

The workers are currently on a hunger strike in Washington, D.C. and the Justice Department has announced an investigate. Signal Industries and the labor recruiters have denied all, though the company claims now to have been as deceived by the recruiters as the workers. (See NY Times article.)

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