Comments from US Secretary of Labor on H2B issues

22 04 2008

‘Aside from legislative issues that could impact the nation’s small businesses, Chao also spoke about the need for a guest-worker program and lower taxes – two issues she considers critical to boosting U.S. economic growth. “The president’s economic stimulus package includes important incentives to help small businesses grow,” she said. “Now, with the economy the way that it is, this is not the time to pass new taxes that would burden businesses and dampen the economy. With the current unemployment rate below historic averages, we actually have a difficult time finding temporary workers. So the H2B temporary worker program is quite popular with your industry. Still, Congress has mandated a cap on the number of H2B workers.

“Now, we realize this is causing hardships on many employers who rely on these workers, but the [Bush] administration cannot lift the cap – only Congress can. However, the administration is going to propose changes to the law, and the Department of Labor has drafted reforms that should be available soon for public comment,” Chao said. “This is part of the process – the public has the opportunity to to comment on and shape how this legislation will come out. Your opinions are essential and let me encourage you to make your voices heard.”’


Elaine Chao, United States Secretary of Labor
April 15, 2008


Full article can be found here.


Excerpt from SAALT’s e-newsletter

17 04 2008
Policy Connection (April 2008)
An e-newsletter from South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

The SAALT Policy Connection is a monthly e-newsletter from South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) that focuses on policy issues related to the South Asian community.
To learn more about SAALT’s policy work, contact us at or reach Priya Murthy, SAALT’s Policy Director at

Immigration: Update on Indian Workers
Exploited in Mississippi and Plea for Donations

Guestworkers in DCSince 2006, more than 500 skilled workers trained in pipefitting and welding were recruited from India to work for the Signal International Corporation, a marine construction company on the U.S. Gulf Coast. The workers came to the U.S. with the promise of steady jobs and a path to permanent immigration status once they came to the United States. However, the workers instead only received temporary H-2B visas; were forced into significant debt to pay for their passage to the United States; and were subjected to severe workplace exploitation. You can read about the challenges faced by H2B guestworkers in a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The Indian workers from Mississippi, supported by the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, have mobilized through organizing, filing lawsuits, and initiating a “Journey for Justice” from the South to Washington, DC and New York City. Along with many other allies, SAALT has played a supportive role with the workers’ efforts on the “Journey to Justice.”  In early April, SAALT staff and volunteers participated in meetings in Washington, DC that the workers are had with the Indian Embassy, Congressional members, and allies. SAALT helped to coordinate various meetings and a briefing on Capitol Hill for Congressional members and staffers. SAALT also convened a forum for workers, allies, and community members where participants had the opportunity to share their own challenges with the immigration system and discuss ways to change the faulty H-2B guestworker program.

Thanks to the outpouring of solidarity from the South Asian, African-American, Asian American, Latino, immigrant rights, and labor rights communities, the workers have been able to galvanize support from a broad spectrum of individuals and organizations. SAALT encourages the South Asian community to continue to lend their support to the workers’ struggle. Financial contributions are especially needed – to provide a monetary donation, you can send a check to the National Immigration Law Center (3435 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 2850, Los Angeles, CA 90010) with “Mississippi Guest Workers” in the memo line.

For more information about the workers’ Journey for Justice, visit the campaign’s blog or contact SAALT at

Press Watch

12 04 2008

An updated press watch site, documenting media coverage of the satyagrahis.


Times of India: Post-UN Meeting

9 04 2008

Excerpt from The Times of India:

“The workers, who claimed they were tricked into coming to the US under the H2-B guest workers programme on a false promise of permanent residency and were forced to live under inhuman conditions, met the Deputy Director of New York office of High Commissioner for Human Rights Craig G Mokhiber here. After the 45-minute meeting, Saket Soni, who led the Indians, said Mokhiber had agreed that their alleged ill-treatment constituted violation of international and humanitarian laws.

Mokhiber, however, did not comment on the meeting.

Signal International had said it had fired the recruiter after it learnt of its misconduct but denied the workers’ charges that they were being treated as slaves as “baseless and unfounded”.

Seventeen workers had come to New York to meet with the UN official. They said the official discussed with them the various courses open to them in the United Nations.

Though their fate remains uncertain, the workers who met Indian Ambassador Ronen Sen last month after a 1,500-km march from New Orleans and demanded a CBI probe, said they would not leave the country without getting justice for themselves and others placed in the same condition.

They, however, regretted the Indian government’s apathy.

“We spent three hours relating our tales to the Indian Ambassador and other embassy officials in Washington and were ultimately told that they could act only within the protocol,” a worker said, asserting they only wanted the Indian and US governments to work together to find a solution.”



Rally with Domestic Workers United

4 04 2008

As part of on going truth force action, Indian H2B workers from the gulf coast joined domestic workers in a rally for justice for a domestic worker, “Angelica,” who worked as a nanny and housekeeper in an apartment in the Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan, NY.

See more videos from the NOWCRJ on our YouTube page: