In their campaign, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris committed to advancing women’s economic and physical security, expanding long overdue rights to farmworkers who have been left out of many basic labor protections, expanding access to safety and well-being for survivors of sexual assault and human trafficking, and pursuing immigration policies that reflect our highest values as a nation. As an organization working on behalf of women who live and work at the intersection of these issues, Justice for Migrant Women is pleased to provide specific policy recommendations to help the Biden-Harris Administration, with the support of Congress achieve those goals. The Biden-Harris Administration can help address these challenges that migrant women face by taking meaningful steps through executive branch actions and throwing its full support behind key pieces of legislation.
Immediately adopt an Emergency Temporary Standard to protect essential workers from COVID-19 in the workplace. OSHA and the CDC need to make workplace safety guidance mandatory as many essential workers lack the basic necessities needed to keep themselves safe such as masks, gloves, and, for farmworkers this even includes handwashing facilities and toilets. The standard should require infection control plans, protections from retaliation for workers who report concerns, and information posted where workers will routinely see it in a language accessible manner.
Immediately issue a directive requiring a thorough investigation of medical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect inflicted on women at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities, including privately run detention facilities; holding the private detention facilities, DHS, ICE, CBP and its employees and subcontractors wholly accountable for harm caused; and ensuring that immigrant victims are provided support in seeking immigration relief for survivors and that they are protected from deportation.
Make immigration pathways more accessible to survivors of gender-based violence, as a first step toward the larger goals of overhauling the nation’s immigration system, including by:
ending policies that have diminished access to protection and safety for immigrant survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking; prioritizing investigations of reported workplace sexual assault, specifically in the agricultural context, service industry, and other settings with workers from marginalized or underserved communities; and reducing the multi-year backlog in the adjudication of cases for the VAWA self-petition, U visa and T visa.
Protect children in agriculture from workplace hazards by revising DOL’s “Hazardous Occupation Order for Children Employed in Agriculture” to incorporate workplace protections afforded to child workers in all other industries. With the majority of work-related fatalities for children occurring in the agricultural sector, it is imperative to address the unequal protections for child farmworkers that results in them performing hazardous work at age 16, while the threshold in other sectors is 18.
Improve DOL’s National Agricultural Worker Survey by improving data collection and sharing on women and children. The new administration should expand the scope of the NAWS to include those aged 12 and up — consistent with the minimum working age set by current federal agricultural labor laws, and ensure that the public release of NAWS results disaggregates data by gender, especially wage and income data.
Ban use of extremely toxic pesticides in agriculture, such as chlorpyrifos, which can lead to illness and long term damage to women farmworkers’ reproductive health, resulting in miscarriages, birth defects and infertility, and which is also linked to brain damage in children. The new administration should direct the EPA to issue regulations banning the use of extremely toxic pesticides and requiring stronger precautions to prevent farmworkers’ exposure to pesticides.