Today we are keeping an eye out for discussions in the Senate Judiciary Committee on a few key immigration bill amendments that are set to be discussed in the coming days.
Klobuchar 1 and Leahy 3: Provides work authorization for survivors of domestic violence who have self-petitioned under VAWA; Provides work authorization for victims of human trafficking and violence who are awaiting T visas and U visas.
Why is this important? Work is a vital element of independence. All too often, the abusive spouse not only exerts control through physical or emotional abuse, but also through economic hostage-taking. If the abused spouse is dependent for housing, food, clothing, and other basic needs, he/she faces incredibly difficult barriers to leaving. Currently, undocumented victims of domestic violence are unable to work legally until their status is resolved. This leaves them with three choices: stay in the abusive relationship, leave the relationship and work illegally and risk arrest and deportation (as well as risking human trafficking and/or exploitative working conditions at the hands of unscrupulous employers), or, leave the relationship and enter a homeless shelter and become dependent on scant public resources. For victims of human trafficking, the inability to work legally makes them vulnerable to re-trafficking, as they have no choice but to take huge personal risks in order to provide for their families in the US and abroad. These amendments would allow the survivor to obtain work authorization, and eventually financial independence, as they petition for immigration relief under the Violence Against Women Act or the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
Today we are also watching for Blumenthal 17, which provides protections for H-2B visa holders who speak out against workplace abuses—including sexual harassment.
H-2B guestworkers organize against all odds. They face not only termination, but eviction, deportation, and blacklisting when they defend their workplace rights. This is a critical protection at a critical time—the immigration bill significantly expands the H-2B guestworker program, potentially exposing hundreds of thousands more workers to abuse. Why is this relevant to our work at Break the Chain Campaign? Because we know that abuse and human trafficking occur on a continuum of exploitation. If workers are unable to speak out against exploitative conditions on the job without fear of termination or deportation, then there is little stopping the employers who take that abuse even further into slavery and human trafficking. One only needs to examine the David v. Signal case to see this.
Our friends at the National Guestworker Alliance summarize the need for this amendment here.