Student NameMaria Espinoza
Faculty Mentor NameDr. Paul Ortiz
CollegeCollege of Liberal Arts and Science
MajorCriminology and Law
MinorLatin American Studies
Research InterestsMy research focus is on the intersections between labor, race, ethnicity, and immigration.
OrganizationsI am part of the Mexican American Student Association, the department of Hispanic and Latino Affairs PODEMOS Initiative, the Hispanic Student Association's Office of Political Affairs, and staff at the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program.
Hobbies and InterestsMy hobbies include community organizing, educational outreach, and reading.

Research Project

Farmworker Exploitation: H-2A Guest Workers: An increase in vulnerability and displacement for both domestic and guest workers.

The H-2A Temporary Agriculture Program is one of the newest and increasingly utilized visa program intended to supplement insufficient domestic agricultural labor. The visa program allows agricultural employers to bring “nonimmigrant” foreign workers to perform farm labor for that particular season, lasting no longer than one year. The first condition of the program is that the employers exhaust all available domestic workers seeking employment and that there is a sufficient need for supplemental labor. The second condition is that H-2A workers will not adversely affect the wages or working conditions of similarly employed domestic workers. On paper the H-2A visa program is a promising source of reliable supplemental labor, however, in practice, there are many discrepancies and gross violations that affect both foreign and domestic workers.

The impact of the H2-A visa on the state of Florida is undeniable. Florida leads the nation in H-2A worker positions certified by the Department of Labor. In the fiscal year 2017, the state had 15.9 percent of the total 97,285, topping Georgia (13.2 percent) and North Carolina (9.8 percent). The practical application of this program is that employers are opting to use foreign labor to increase their profits through grander demands and returns on the labor, while at the same time displacing established farmworker communities.

My research questions the practical impact of the H-2A visa program on the already vulnerable farmworker community. This community has been historically exploited and oppressed even into the 21st century often due to the varying legal statuses of the labor force. I will also analyze the vulnerability of the foreign workers being brought to complete this demanding labor. I hypothesize that the H-2A visa program causes a displacement in domestic workers and increases the risk of exploitation on both foreign and domestic workers in Florida. I will be using qualitative personal interviews in combination with historical and public policy research