Most immigrants coming to the United States on a work visa do not expect life to be easy, but few expect mistreatment and exploitation. Unfortunately, that is what some immigrant workers face thanks to unscrupulous employers and challenging immigration laws.
A recent article in The Nation details the story of Shellion Parris, a Jamaican immigrant who came to the US on an H-2B visa to participate in the guestworker program. She spent what little money she had on a one-way flight and on fees to a recruitment organization tied to a company that provides cleaning services to luxury hotels.
When she arrived in the US, she was not given a job. Instead, she was provided only sporadic cleaning shifts that paid little to nothing. Fees were deducted from her meager paychecks. She went into debt. She was given housing by the cleaning company, but it was less than desirable.
Shellion sought relief through a U visa, a special visa available to victims of crime. Unfortunately, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services USCIS) denied her application, claiming she did not meet the criteria. She is still fighting to stay in this country.
Shellion's story is not an isolated incident. In fact, she has become an advocate on behalf of the many guestworkers who have come to this country only to fall prey to similar situations. While immigration laws are constantly evolving, there is currently little recourse for immigrants who have been victimized by employers. Penalties for employers who mistreat or exploit immigrant workers in this way are not particularly substantial, and often there is a subcontractor arrangement that allows responsible parties to distance themselves from what has happened to the immigrant workers.
One step that people can take to protect themselves is to talk to a qualified immigration attorney. At Miley & Brown, P.C., we have the experience to recognize potential dangers and to help immigrants avoid them or overcome them with deportation defense strategies.