The largest federation of unions in the US has expressed displeasure over the State Department’s decision to accord full diplomatic immunity to senior Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade which prevented federal prosecutors to try her in a court on charges of visa fraud and misrepresentation of facts.
The AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, however, applauded the Department of Justice, particularly US Attorney Preet Bharara, for its steadfast pursuit of justice in this case.
“The indictment of the consular officer itself a rare occurrence is a positive step in the movement to uphold the rights of domestic workers. However, when the US Attorney presented the charges, it was revealed that the Department of State recently granted Khobragade diplomatic immunity allowing her to return to India,” Trumka said in a statement.
“We are deeply disappointed by the State Department’s decision to reaccredit Khobragade to the United Nations, which positioned her to be shielded by full diplomatic immunity,” he said.
Too often immigrant workers are recruited to the United States on a myriad of temporary work visas and find themselves tied to an unscrupulous employer, working far more hours for far less than originally agreed upon, he added.
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International officers should be held to a higher standard, yet instead they have frequently been able to skirt charges of abuse and fraud in the A-3 visa category for
personal employees of foreign officials using diplomatic immunity, he asserted.
Trumka said the labor movement will continue to stand with Sangeeta Richard – the maid of Khobragade – as she and her family adjust to life in the United States after their trauma.
Richard has alleged that she was underpaid and the contracts were violated by Devyani, which has been dismissed by the Indian diplomat.
“The AFL-CIO will work to ensure the US government applies the full range of protections for domestic workers required by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and urges the Department of State to closely scrutinize the officials who utilize the A-3 visa program.
“The Department should also consider taking action against governments that routinely misuse the program, like India,” Trumka demanded.
“The fight for justice is far from over, but this prominent indictment should send a message to other exploitative employers, regardless of their rank or status, that these abuses will not be ignored,” he said.
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFLCIO) is a national trade union center, the largest federation of unions in the United States, made up of fifty-seven national and international unions.