Winner of the Grand Jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival, H-2 WORKER reveals the systematic exploitation of Caribbean laborers by the Florida sugar industry from World War II through the 1990s. Each year more than 10,000 foreign workers were granted temporary guest worker (“H-2″) visas to spend six brutal months cutting sugar cane near Lake Okeechobee. They were housed in overcrowded barracks, denied adequate treatment for frequent on-the-job injuries, and paid less than minimum wage. Faced with deportation and soaring unemployment in their home countries, workers had little recourse but to silently accept these humiliating conditions.
Clandestinely filmed in the cane fields and around the workers’ barracks, H-2 WORKER exposes this travesty of justice, which remained a well-kept secret for decades.
Originally released in 1990, today H-2 WORKER provides an invaluable resource to understanding current debate over guest worker provisions of immigration legislation. While Florida’s sugar cane cutters have been replaced by mechanical harvesters, guest worker programs have expanded in agriculture, hotel, restaurant, forestry, and other industries. H-2 WORKER illuminates how our foreign worker program continues to benefit employers at the expense of vulnerable, underpaid workers.
Update on the Guest Worker Program; Filmmaker audio commentary; Short Film: More Than Luck; Trailer: Life and Debt; Spanish Subtitles
Sundance Film Festival: Grand Jury Prize, winner; Cinematography Award, winner