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Sikh News 300 Indian H2B visa workers enslaved in Mississippi

Discussion in 'Breaking News' started by Vikram singh, Mar 18, 2007.

  1. Vikram singh

    Vikram singh
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    New Orleans Indymedia reports that more than three hundred Indian workers in Pascagoula, Mississippi, claim that their employer, Signal International LLC, a marine fabrication company in Mississippi and Texas, is guilty of extreme labor exploitation. The workers are in the United States with temporary “H2B” guest worker visas to work as welders and fitters. They report paying $15,000 to $20,000 to acquire these visas and come to the United States.
    The workers report living in substandard conditions in the camps where Signal has housed them. They live in isolation with twenty-four men in each cramped “container” unit, with only two bathrooms for all of them. Visitors are not allowed in the camps and workers cannot make any complaints to the company. They are frequently threatened by the company with salary reduction or termination; the latter would compromise the terms of their visa and likely result in deportation.
    Last week, Signal conducted a raid of the workers camp. Company representatives entered with armed security guards and took six workers. The company locked the workers in a room and told them they will be sent back to India. One of these workers, who had sold all of his possessions for the H2B visa, ran from guards into a bathroom and emerged with bloodied arms as the result of what witnesses believed to be an attempted suicide. He was taken to a hospital.
    In a statement to local immigrants rights advocates, representatives of the workers said, “We paid money to a U.S. lawyer working on behalf of the company and to Indian recruiters. We have proof of this payment. For some of us, this is a lifetime of earnings in India. We all sold our property and our houses to come and work for Signal. In India we were promised that we will be getting green cards and permanent residency. This was not true. We were given temporary H2B visas which expire on July 31, 2007. We have been treated like animals here. We do not know if we will be extended on a new visa. We cannot recover the money we have spent on the visa in less than two years.”
    Recently, a Punjabi worker was threatened with termination and being sent back to India. Subsequently, he suffered a fatal heart attack, which fellow workers attributed to the stress of the situation. The workers collected money amongst themselves to the send the body back to India.
    Despite opposition from Signal, the workers have formed a committee called the Signal H2B Employees Organization. Members of the committee say that workers are still being confined by the company against their will. Two hundred of them are holding vigil outside the room where their fellow workers are locked up in an attempt to monitor the situation and prevent the workers from being sent back to India.
    The committee has collected over one hundred-fifty signatures for a statement of support. They demand that Signal International:
    · Stop the firing of these workers and reinstate the worker who may have attempted suicide. · Release imprisoned workers immediately. · Return the money the workers paid to the company to come to the United States. · Ensure basic human rights and standards for food and accommodation. · Assure that workers are paid the wage they were promised.
    For Further Information: Bill Chandler, Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance, (601) 594-3564 Vicky Cintra, Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance, (228) 234-1697 or 1698 Saket Soni, Alliance of Guestworkers for Dignity, (504) 881-6610
    The full text of the workers statement follows:
    "We are more than 300 Indian workers in Pascagoula, Mississippi. We came here from different parts of India with “H2B visas†to work as welders and fitters. Our employer is Signal International LLC, a marine fabrication company in Mississippi and Texas.
    We paid $15,000 to $20,000 to come to the United States. We paid this money to a US lawyer working on behalf of the company and to Indian recruiters. We have proof of this payment. For some of us, this is a lifetime of earnings in India. We all sold our property and our houses to come and work for Signal.
    In India we were promised that we will be getting green cards and permanent residency. This was not true. We were given temporary H2B visas which expire on July 31. We do not know if we will be extended on a new visa. We cannot recover the money we have spent on the visa in less than two years.
    We have been treated like animals here. We have been threatened with termination and salary reduction. We are living in isolation. Visitors are not allowed in the camps. We live 24 men in one container, with two bathrooms for all of us. We cannot make any complaints to the company.
    Last month, one of our fellow workers from Punjab was threatened with termination and was about to be sent back to India. The situation gave him so much stress that he had a heart attack. We collected money ourselves to the send the body back to India.
    Even with these threats, we have formed a committee to protect ourselves from the company. We are SIGNAL H2B EMPLOYEES ORGANIZATION. But the company is not in agreement with this.
    Early this morning, the company conducted a raid in the camp. Company representatives came with armed security guards and took six workers. The company locked the workers in a room and told them they will be sent back to India. One of our fellow workers ran into the bathroom. Guards ran after him. This man had sold all of his possessions for this visa. When he came out of the bathroom his arm was ****** – we believe he attempted suicide. He was taken to the hospital.
    Right now the workers are still trapped in the room. While you are reading this, 200 of us are standing outside the room where the workers are locked up. We are monitoring to ensure that the company does not force these workers to go back to India. We have collected 150 signatures on the spot. We have formed this committee here to defend ourselves.
    We are dictating this urgent message to a friend on the telephone while we wait for the police and company.
    Please call Signal International ask make the following demands on our behalf: · Stop the illegal firing of these the workers. · Release the imprisoned workers immediately. · Reinstate the worker who was driven to suicide. · Return the money we paid to the company through agents to come to the United States for $15,000 to 20,000 · Give us human standards of food and accomodation. · Assure us that we will be paid at $18.50 as hour as promised.


    The phone number is (228) 762 0010."
    indiaspora@gmail.com



    SOURCE:INDOlink - News & Analysis - 300 Indian H2B visa workers enslaved in Mississippi




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