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The migrant workers that farms across Canada and the U.S. rely on are being forced into increasingly precarious circumstances, according to new investigative reports in the New York Times and ProPublica. In Canada, a seasonal worker program to address labor shortages leaves workers vulnerable to exploitation and deportation, and in Florida, a workers’ compensation law has allowed insurers to turn immigrant workers in to the state.
At a time when immigrants and farmers are nervously navigating the new administration’s terrain, it’s troubling that even Canada’s seemingly immigrant-friendly government is facing criticism from human rights advocates.
The New York Times’ Dan Levin summarized the situation:
“Canada’s seasonal agriculture worker program was set up to recruit migrants from Mexico and 11 Caribbean nations to work for up to eight months a year to address chronic labor shortages…But critics say the program is poorly supervised, leaving workers vulnerable to exploitation by employers, often denied the Canadian labor benefits they are entitled to and at risk of deportation if they complain about employment conditions.
“In May, however, a report by Canada’s auditor general found scant federal oversight of the temporary foreign worker program, with only 13 of 173 planned inspections completed in the 2016 fiscal year. Temporary foreign workers had not been interviewed during any of the completed inspections, according to the report.