Problems with Civilian Border Patrol Corps, Tracy J. Lawson
The story of Ismiyati Soryono, a domestic worker for a Saudi princess, Buniah al-Saud, brings to light a story that is familiar for many migrant domestic workers but remains hidden from the general public, perhaps even the legal community. It tells of domestic workers who accompany their employers to the United States with an employment contract they believe will be honored, only to experience severe abuse and exploitation by their employer due to a complete disregard of their contract. Migrant domestic workers further realize that they have almost no avenues to redress their injustices because their employer controls their immigration status, not only through physical possession of their immigration documents but also because they can report the domestic workers to immigration authorities, which would then make them deportable.
Migrant domestic workers enter the United States on visas for non-immigrants to work as live-in domestic workers that are issued on a temporary basis. Many migrant domestic workers enter the United States under A-3, G-5, and B-1 visas. The visas are issued for one to three years and may be extended in two-year increments. A-3 visas are issued if the worker will be working for ambassadors, diplomats, consular officers, public ministers, and their families. G-5 visas are issued for work with officers and employees of international organizations or of foreign missions to international organizations and their families. These visas are registered with the State Department Office of Protocol, the guidelines of which have been established by the State Department and the INS. The State Department has set up prerequisites before an employer can obtain a visa. An employer simply has to submit an employment contract to obtain an employee visa.
In spite of the obstacles facing migrant domestic workers, they do initiate litigation against their employers. Migrant domestic workers have filed claims such as breach of contract, indentured servitude, or various tort claims. The temporary nature of their employment and stay in the United States, however, impedes domestic workers from following through with a claim or filing a suit. If they leave their employment or are fired then they are in a position to be deported immediately. Under new laws, however, there are discretionary methods that would allow a migrant domestic worker to remain in the United States to follow through with litigation. In criminal cases, migrant domestic workers can file for T or U visas. These visas were enacted within the Trafficking Act and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and allow individuals who have suffered human rights abuses to stay in the United States to assist in a criminal prosecution.
In conclusion, presently the legal framework provides little legal remedy for migrant domestic workers. They easily fall under the radar of both immigration and labor laws. Attention needs to be brought to the abuses and exploitation these individuals face. This can only be done when there is more monitoring and recording of the domestic workers in the immigration system and education of advocates and lawmakers of some of the avenues of redress that migrant domestic workers can pursue. Additionally, if there is more regulation of the domestic worker industry, perhaps migrant domestic workers would face less risk of unfair labor conditions.