Ori Korin, 202-822-2127 x126
Washington, D.C. – Last week, three employees of Louisiana-based C.J.’s Seafood, a Walmart supplier, were granted U-Visas by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a classification designed to protect immigrant crime victims and aid criminal investigations. Earlier this year, the C.J.’s Seafood workers exposed abusive working conditions and forced labor by their employer, but until last week the victims were still vulnerable to deportation. Worker protection groups are hailing this decision as a critical move to help stop exploitation and retaliation against workers organizing to improve their basic rights in the workplace.
Sarita Gupta, executive director of Jobs with Justice and American Rights at Work, issued the following statement in response to the unprecedented ruling:
“This announcement is an important victory for the C.J.’s Seafood workers who faced incredible obstacles in their effort to expose forced labor and serious exploitation in their industry. This decision also brings critical attention to the significance of U-Visas and the need for increased protections for victims of workplace crimes. U-Visas will lessen the incentives for employers to use immigration enforcement as means to skirt labor law, ensure that workers involved in labor disputes will not be unilaterally deported, and provide investigators and attorneys involved in such cases the necessary opportunity to interview workers whose rights have been violated.
Workers who organize to expose exploitation often face retaliation and currently have very limited access to adequate protections to hold employers accountable. To stop workplace abuse we need more access to protections, like U-Visas”
This particular type of visa was originally established to encourage immigrant victims to come forward and report crimes but has typically been underutilized as an enforcement device to reduce employer crimes against workers. Worker advocates have long-touted the importance of U-Visas in the fight to stop employer crimes and have promoted expanding access through adoption of the POWER (Protecting Our Workers from Exploitation and Retaliation) Act in Congress. Organizations, like Jobs with Justice and American Rights at Work, are also working with the POWER Campaign to establish additional protections, so that more workers like those at C.J.’s can come forward and seek justice.