ERI makes UN submission on USA Guest-worker program

As a contribution to the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights record of the United States, due to take place in November, Edmund Rice International has made a submission about the US guest-worker program.

One driver for this effort has been the 2008 Edmund Rice Christian Brothers North America (ERCBNA) chapter statement, “encouraging the brothers and the wider Edmund Rice Network to become advocates for this community.” (ie the immigrant community)
Kevin Cawley, as the ERI team member responsible for our USA linkages, has been looking into the issue of youth at risk and youth in detention as casualties of the current enforcement practices of the Department of Homeland Security.

Penetrating the Homeland Security veil on detention and in particular youth in detention required many hours of attention and travel only to end in frustration in Brownsville, Texas when contacts were unable to get permission to visit a center and in Salinas, California where an appointment with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was abruptly canceled when authorities learned of the reason for the inquiry.

Since ERI was eager to participate in the UPR process for the United States, attention turned to another marginalized group – guest workers whose plight had been documented in a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
Kevin contacted SPLC to endorse the work on the problems of H2b visa guest workers who are a very marginalized subgroup. These H2b workers come for brief spells of 6 months to do limited work for one employer, e.g. planting seedlings on tree farms. They are held in virtual slavery because they cannot seek other work, are forced to live in substandard housing, and often work only 2 months for the employer and then must wait out the rest of the visa with no work because the rules restrict their work to the employer who recruited them. Remittances to the home country suffer terribly. They have no access to legal resources.

SPLC completed the report but lacked the staff to advance the full report to the United Nations Human Rights Council. They readily gave clearance to ERI for use of their materials.

ERI will continue to monitor the problem of youth in detention in the USA. We believe that submitting the material produced by SPLC will lead to greater awareness of the plight of the guest workers and also to a higher profile for ERI at the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The participation in the UPR in this manner assists ERI in learning how to participate in future reviews in the many countries in which the charism of Edmund is now pressed against the multiple injustices we have come to see more clearly since engaging with the United Nations.

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