American University Washington College of Law Hosts Conference on Challenges Facing Immigrant Workers

Experts will explore the failures of the H-2B guest worker program, and its possible future


WASHINGTON, DC, March 20, 2009 – American University Washington College of Law (WCL) and the International Human Rights Clinic, Immigrants’ Rights Division are pleased to announce the upcoming conference entitled “Realizing the American Dream? Contemporary Challenges Facing H-2B Workers and their Advocates”, which will take place March 24.

This conference will bring together international and domestic experts to make assessments of the success of the H-2B visa program, which allows employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in non-agricultural work in industries as diverse as landscaping, seafood, and hospitality.  Talks will focus on the recruitment and trafficking of these workers, efforts to organize the workers, transnational litigation, and the future of the H-2B program under the Obama Administration.  

“We are pleased to be hosting a conference that aims to take a hard look at the H-2B visa program, which has received significant public scrutiny in recent years,” says Jayesh Rathod, Practitioner-in-Residence at WCL and moderator of one of the conference panels.  “We as a law school have a responsibility to examine these persistent issues and try to find a better solution, and this conference will be a step in that direction.”

The International Human Rights Law Clinic at WCL offers student attorneys the opportunity to represent individuals, families or organizations alleging violations of recognized or developing human rights norms before international and domestic judicial bodies. 

The Immigrants’ Rights Section (IR) provides representation on a broad range of cases involving immigrant communities in the D.C. area. These include cases of exploited low-wage immigrant workers (e.g., H-2B workers, domestic workers, and day laborers) including trafficked individuals, asylum and non-asylum immigration cases, and language rights cases.  While some of these cases involve immigration, many more reside at the intersections of immigration, labor, and/or criminal law, and often have a transnational dimension. Cases are brought in federal district court, in the courts of Maryland and D.C., in Immigration Court, and before federal and state agencies. Student attorneys work with individual clients and client groups, and gain exposure to immigrant organizing efforts and immigrants’ rights policymaking in the DC area.

To learn more about this event or the American University Washington College of Law please contact Jason Policastro at (202) 895-4537 or via email at

Full Event Schedule:

8:45 am            Registration and Continental Breakfast

9:15 am            Opening Remarks 


Speakers:  Hilary Axam, Special Litigation Counsel, Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, U.S. Department of Justice; F. Javier Díaz de León, Head of Section for Regional and Hispanic Affairs, Embassy of Mexico; Victoria Gavito, Legal Director, Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc.; Michelle Lapointe, Staff Attorney, Immigrant Justice Project, Southern Poverty Law Center; Ann Jordan, Project Director, Human Trafficking and Forced Labor, Washington College of Law (Moderator)

11:00 am          Coffee Break

11:15 am          ORGANIZING H-2B WORKERS

Speakers:  Joseph J. Baniszewski, Deputy Asst. General Counsel, National Labor Relations Board; Daniel Castellanos-Contreras, Organizer, Alliance of Guest Workers for Dignity; JJ Rosenbaum, Counsel, New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice; Leticia Zavala, Director of Outreach & Leadership Programs, Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc.; Michele Pistone, Visiting Professor of Law, Washington College of Law (Moderator)

12:30 pm          Lunch 


Speakers:  Mary Bauer, Director, Immigrant Justice Project, Southern Poverty Law Center; Cathleen Caron, Executive Director, Global Workers Justice Alliance;  Rachel Micah-Jones, Executive Director, Centro de los Derechos del Migrante; Arthur N. Read, General Counsel, Friends of Farmworkers; Sarah Paoletti, Clinical Supervisor & Lecturer, University of Pennsylvania (Moderator)

2:45 pm            Coffee Break


Speakers: D. Michael Dale, Executive Director, Northwest Workers’ Justice Project; Daniela Dwyer, Supervising Attorney, Farmworker Division, Maryland Legal Aid BureauTerry R. Yellig, Sherman, Dunn, Cohen, Leifer & Yellig, P.C.;  Jayesh Rathod, Practitioner-in-Residence, Washington College of Law (Moderator).

4:30 pm            STUDENT PRESENTATION

Gillian Chadwick; Nicole Gamble; Caroline Lyznik; Shanti Martin

Student Attorneys, International Human Rights Law Clinic, Immigrants’ Rights Section

5:00 pm            RECEPTION