A New 'U': Organizing Victims and Protecting Immigrant Workers
66 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2008 Last revised: 22 Apr 2008
Date Written: March 5, 2008
This article explores the viability and potential effectiveness of immigration law's U visa to contribute to the protection of groups of workers in substandard and dangerous workplaces. Immigration law has increasingly become an obstacle to the enforcement of employment and labor law to protect immigrant workers. Moreover, employment and labor law, with their individual rights frameworks, have proven blunt instruments in eradicating the type of subordinating, sometimes slave-like conditions of immigrant workers, especially those in low-wage industries. The federal government recently issued long-awaited regulations governing U nonimmigrant visas for certain crime victims. Several of the enumerated eligible crimes in the U visa statutory provisions encompass labor exploitation. The U visa regulations demonstrate how the interplay between employment and immigration law can provide the protection that immigrants need as a prerequisite to remedy workplace wrongs.
The U visa grants nonimmigrant status to victims of crime who have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of being victims of criminal activity, and who have been, will be, or are being cooperative with law enforcement officials in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. Initially, the government implemented the statute to protect domestic violence or sex crime victims because the legislation was a companion to the Violence Against Women Act for which women's groups advocated. The legal scholarship addressing U visa implementation has focused on this group of crime victims as individual victims. A minority of scholarship has addressed the use of the U visa or any other visa status to protect against workplace crimes. As yet, no scholarship has directly suggested the U visa as a foundation for enhancing the collective rights of immigrant workers in substandard workplaces. This article addresses the viability of the U visa as a vehicle for creating power for the collective and protecting against criminal activity in immigrant-dominated workplaces.
Keywords: immigration, labor, employment
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