Human trafficking or a guest worker program? H-2A’s systemic issues result in catastrophic violations
An 18-month investigation by Prism, Futuro Investigates, and Latino USA found that the H-2A visa program—derived from the infamous Bracero Program—is rife with wage theft and exploitation
by Tina Vásquez
April 14th, 2023
Years later, Diego still struggles to find the words to describe the labor camp he was expected to call home during the spring of 2018.
“This is where we’re going to live?” Diego recalled thinking. “Everything was filthy.”
His first impulse was to snap photos with his cell phone. He photographed the “bathroom” that only had two functional toilets for dozens of men—and no doors. A “shower” that was nothing but a bucket in an enclosed space and a spigot that shot out cold water. There weren’t enough beds for all the men. Those who had mattresses may have actually been the unlucky ones because they were yellowing, stained, and full of ticks. There were also snakes in the house, including one in the kitchen where the only working appliance in the whole ramshackle place was a single refrigerator that looked like it’d never been cleaned.
There was no food and nowhere for Diego and his best friend Mario to rest their heads after a grueling bus ride from Mexico that took days longer than it should have and depleted the little money they had. The labor camp was the second blow they’d received since arriving in this place they called Carolina del Norte. The first came a couple of hours earlier……….