Migrant Workers Gain New Protections Against Sex Discrimination and Retaliation

Through the unflagging work of organizations like our partner Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. (CDM), major victories have been secured this month to advance migrant and gender equity in labor migration.

For 17 years CDM has advocated tirelessly for the protection of worker rights in Mexico and the United States. In March of 2021, migrant workers Adareli Ponce and Maritza Perez submitted the first petition against the U.S. government under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Since filing that petition, CDM staff spent 664 days mobilizing allies and workers, meeting with dozens of government officials from Mexico and the U.S. and submitting supplementary evidence.

Along with other organizations and individuals working tirelessly on this issue, CDM successfully argued that the U.S. government failed to live up to its obligations under the trade agreement, by enabling systemic sex discrimination in temporary work programs.

Last week, Mexico and the United States signed a historic agreement that includes unprecedented provisions to strengthen workers’ rights across the region. And for the first time ever, several demands specific to women migrant workers are met as well, with key provisions that include:

  • Prohibiting discrimination in recruitment
  • Making gender-related data publicly available
  • Increasing access to justice for migrant workers and ensuring they receive their compensation
  • Providing pre-departure rights education to migrant workers

This watershed agreement comes less than a week after the U.S. government announced a process to offer immigration protections and work authorization to migrant and immigrant workers who are defending their rights. Through these victories, workers are empowered to hold abusive employers accountable without the same fear of retaliation.

CDM and all of us who are committed to improving the lives of migrant workers are looking ahead to solidifying worker protections in the implementation of the agreement and will continue advocating to expand access to legal services, providing workers with the possibility to use these groundbreaking policies to exercise their rights.