The U.S. Department of Labor announced Tuesday it will aggressively pursue employers and others abusing workers and worker-visa programs and increase protections for American workers.

An Arizona farm accused of housing its workers in “inhumane” living conditions is at the center of a federal crackdown on worker-visa program fraud and abuse.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced Tuesday it will aggressively pursue employers and others abusing workers and worker-visa programs and increase protections for American workers. 

G Farms in El Mirage, which brought in workers through the H-2A temporary agricultural program, appears to have forced its workers to sleep in converted school buses and semi-truck trailers, with beds stacked end to end and with inadequate ventilation, among other violations, according to court records and a U.S. Department of Labor statement.

Daytime temperatures in the housing units exceeded 100 degrees, the Labor Department said.

A federal court, at the Labor Department’s request, granted a preliminary injunction May 19 ordering G Farms to change its operations. 

The Department of Labor cited the legal action as first of more to come.

The department “will focus on preventing visa program abuse and take every available legal action against those who abuse these programs,” Alexander Acosta, Labor Department secretary, said in a statement Tuesday.

The Department of Labor filed a lawsuit May 10 in U.S. District Court in Arizona alleging G Farms didn’t keep accurate records of hours worked, didn’t pay workers the minimum agreed wage of $10.95 per hour, and made employees sleep in “a makeshift, unhygienic and unsafe encampment of school buses, semitrailers, and an open-air shed.”

Employers of H-2A visa workers have to provide appropriate housing at no cost to the employees, according to the lawsuit. 

“What G Farms is accused of doing is simply inhumane,” Acosta said in a statement. “No worker deserves to be treated this way. And honest employers cannot compete against those who break the law by underpaying and mistreating their workers.”

Federal officials investigated G Farms in late April and early May, according to the lawsuit.

U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Rayes granted an injunction May 19 ordering defendants to make housing and transportation available for the H-2A visa workers, to pay them no less than the hourly rate of $10.95, and to prohibit G Farms from withholding wages.

G Farms owner Santiago Gonzalez did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The Department of Labor said it would continue investigating the agricultural company through its Office of Inspector General.

“Entities who engage in visa program fraud and abuse are breaking our laws and are harming American workers, negatively affecting Americans’ ability to provide for themselves and their families,”  Acosta said in a statement.

The department said it would continue to work with the departments of Justice and Homeland Security to further investigate and detect visa program fraud and abuse.


Farmworker visas more than doubled in Arizona, nation in recent years 

Will Trump H-1B visa reforms hurt businesses across Arizona?  

Study: Lack of legal protections for undocumented farm workers puts food system at risk

How safe is your salad? Follow produce from Yuma, Arizona, to your grocery store


Read or Share this story: