05/2006

The Recruitment

When they are recruited in Mexico, Guatemala or other countries, H-2B forestry workers typically have to pay large amounts of money in order to obtain jobs. Typically, workers arrive in debt from $500 to $5000. They often pay interest rates on that debt of 20% per month. Many workers are required to leave collateral in their home country to ensure they will comply with the terms of their contracts in the U.S.

"It costs us money to come to the States every year. We would arrive in the States in debt. What I earned planting trees in the States was hardly enough to pay my debt. It was really hard for us to fight to get to the States legally and then not earn any money. We were told we had to leave our deeds to get the job. On a blank paper we had to sign our names and hand over our deeds. They said that if we didn't sign this paper they wouldn't bring us to the States to work. We suffered when we came here. We suffered a lot. The company always treated us poorly, from beginning to end." 

Alvaro Hernandez-Lopez, H-2B forestry worker

"Sometimes I was very worried because, before I came to the U.S., the labor contractors who hired me required my wife to report to an office near my home. The contractors said that if I was going to work for Eller & Sons, my wife would have to sign a document that stated that if I broke my contract, my wife would be held responsible in Guatemala. I didn't understand exactly what this threat meant, but knew that my wife would have to sign if I was going to get the visa. The work was very hard, but I worried about leaving because my wife signed this form to get me the job and I worried about her." 

Nelson Ramirez, H-2B forestry worker

"Every time I traveled to the United States to work [in tree planting], I paid about $2,000 in expenses related to my trip. I was never reimbursed for this money." 

Hugo Martin Recinos-Recinos, H-2B forestry worker