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H-1B Visas, Outsourcing and Body Shops: A Continuum of Exploitation for High Tech Workers

49 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2016 Last revised: 20 May 2017

Maria Linda Ontiveros

University of San Francisco - School of Law

Date Written: May 19, 2017

Abstract

This article analyzes the exploitation of immigrant workers under the H-1B visa program. It analyzes pure H-1B workers that work directly for the company that sponsor the visa; outsourced H-1B workers that work on a visa sponsored by an outsourcing vendor; and body shop workers who work on a visa sponsored by a labor contractor that operates outside the legal boundaries of the law. The article provides a comprehensive survey of lawsuits brought under the visa laws for prevailing wage violations, wage theft, benching, and liquidated damages. It also discusses lawsuits brought as independent causes of action under state tort and contract law; the TVPA; RICO; and employment discrimination statutes. The article argues that even perfect enforcement of existing law will not eliminate H-1B worker exploitation because the program includes systemic inequalities and subordinating structures that are modern manifestations of involuntary servitude, debt bondage and unfree labor. The unfree system of labor created by the guest worker program is based in the ways in which threats of deportation and liquidated damages prevent workers from complaining or quitting; the way in which the visa sponsor's control of the guest worker's labor parallels antebellum slave codes; the commodification of immigrant workers as part of the human supply chain; and the lack of citizenship rights guaranteed to these guest workers.

Keywords: H-1B visas, visas, worker exploitation, systemic inequality, involuntary servitude, debt bondage, ante-bellum slave codes, unfree labor, outsourcing, labor contractors, body shop workers, wage violations, wage theft, benching, TVPA, Torture Victim Protection Act, RICO

Suggested Citation

Ontiveros, Maria Linda, H-1B Visas, Outsourcing and Body Shops: A Continuum of Exploitation for High Tech Workers (May 19, 2017). Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law, Vol. 38, Page 1; Univ. of San Francisco Law Research Paper No. 2016-21. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2827789

Maria Linda Ontiveros (Contact Author)

University of San Francisco - School of Law ( email )

2130 Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
United States
415-422-5365 (Phone)

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