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Unpublished Paper
Private Civil Remedies: A Viable Tool for Guest Worker Empowerment
ExpressO (2012)
  • Jennifer J. Lee

Despite the well known abuses of immigrant workers who come to the U.S. on H-2A or H-2B visas, the federal government has failed to curb exploitation within its guest worker programs. At the same time, the government has created certain private civil remedies that immigrant workers can use to address workplace abuses. Existing critique has focused on the systemic flaws of the guest worker programs and the need for government reform. This Article takes a different approach by arguing that guest workers, who are severely disadvantaged in the political arena, should take advantage of this devolution of rights from the federal government to the individual worker. In particular, it examines how private civil remedies under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, and antidiscrimination laws, are particularly well suited to address guest worker exploitation. These three examples illustrate how private civil remedies give workers agency to vindicate their rights without having to rely on governmental institutions. Further, such remedies allow workers to participate in reshaping the boundaries of the law and produce counternarratives that can confer legitimacy on a movement’s claims. While acknowledging the constraints related to the use of litigation strategies, this Article concludes that private civil remedies can operate as a tool for empowerment of guest workers.

  • guest workers,
  • immigrant workers
Publication Date
February 17, 2012
Citation Information
Jennifer J. Lee. "Private Civil Remedies: A Viable Tool for Guest Worker Empowerment" ExpressO (2012)
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