The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) impacts the lives and working conditions of the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who labor in the United States every year. Many workers choose to migrate to the U.S. on temporary work visas because of the shortage of economic opportunities in their home communities. For many Mexicans, the U.S. guestworker programs are an opportunity to provide for their families. Workers migrate on temporary work visas that lack protections, lack monitoring and meaningful enforcement, and lack access to justice. It’s an unfair choice for these workers who often know they will face exploitation in the United States.
Migrant workers are a particularly vulnerable labor sector given the workplace and recruitment abuses that they suffer, the language barriers they face, and the challenges of accessing effective cross-border justice. Both in their recruitment in Mexico and employment in the U.S., migrant workers, whose visas are tied to a single employer, face economic coercion, discrimination, wage theft, retaliation, and other abuses that can rise to the level of human trafficking.